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Panthers Pounce on Lions for Impressive Win

By Staff | Sep 4, 2015

Hunter Hager starts the season opener with an interception on the very first play from scrimmage. (Photo by Lori Gronvold)

On a warm, muggy night, the Rugby Panther football team’s 55-27 season-opening trouncing over the bigger Bishop Ryan Lions, out of Minot, was an effort that left little doubt of what this team is made of.

The first play from scrimmage set the tone of the game, with a perfectly-timed interception by hard-hitting senior Hunter Hager, who jumped the route of a Lions receiver who was running a slant pattern. From there, junior quarterback Anders Johnson’s special night began.

With only 1:20 off the game clock, Johnson lofted a beautiful rainbow pass down the right sideline to a sprinting Victor Gronvold, who made a picture-perfect over the shoulder catch for a 44-yard touchdown. David Schneibel provided the extra point, giving the Panthers a 7-0 lead.

After keeping Bishop-Ryan scoreless in the first quarter, the Lions started to wear down the Panthers and they rattled off three unanswered touchdowns. Running back Aaron Sandy accounted for two of those touchdowns. After the third score, the Panthers looked drained from the heat and the score, which was 7-21. With little time left on the clock in the first-half, RHS Coach Scott Grochow, along with his assistants, calmed the team down and the preseason conditioning kicked in.

With pinpoint passing from Johnson, timely catches from Ryan Michels and hard running from Gronvold, the Panthers marched down the field. With 0:19 left on the clock, Johnson hit Michels with a three-yard dart and the Panthers had new life. The extra point failed and the Panthers went into halftime, trailing 13-21 but with a new spring in their step.

As Grochow pointed out after the game, “Everything that went wrong in the first half went right in the third quarter.” The Panthers exploded onto the field and on the scoreboard. Accumulating 34 unanswered points and ending the third quarter with 42 points in all, with the game well in hand 55-27.

The third quarter scoring came from every spectrum: Running, passing and special teams. Gronvold scored from three yards out for the first score of the third quarter. It was followed by a 70-yard pitch and catch from Johnson, who showed his ability to read coverage and arm strength, to Michels, who showed his fleet of foot and catching ability. The next score came from hustle on special teams, with Trevor Longie recovering a blocked punt for a 42-yard touchdown. The strength and desire of the special team units didn’t stop there, with the next score coming on an 89-yard punt return by Michels. The fourth score of the quarter came on another picture perfect throw, catch and run from Johnson to Michels covering 59 yards. The last score of the third quarter came with just 16 seconds left on a 51-yard scamper by Kaden Jaeger.

The Panthers scored 42 points by air and ground while holding the Lions to one score by Sandy, who punched in a 1-yard run in a game that was far out of reach at that time. The final score of the third quarter ended with the Panthers leading 55 to the Lions’ 27.

That was also the final score of the game, with the fourth quarter being scoreless for both sides, largely part because the Panthers used this time to give their underclassman some playing time.

Johnson said after the game about his performance, “It was a team win. All the guys played great and the line really gave me the time to throw.” He continued, “The coaches had a game plan that really worked. Bishop-Ryan was a good team it just seemed we were better prepared.” Johnson ended the night 12-24 passing for 253 yards and 4 touchdowns. He also added 4 tackles on defense.

Defensive standout Hager talked about his stellar defensive performance, “We really came together as a team tonight. We have a philosophy of a bend don’t break defense and tonight it worked.” We have a lot of work to still do but it is a great feeling getting this win against a good team.” Hager ended the night leading the defense with 7 tackles and 2 interceptions plus 3 receptions on offense.

Grochow said about his team’s performance, “It was a great win. It all came together in the second half.” I couldn’t be more proud of these bunch of kids. We still have a lot of work to do but having a win under your belt against a football team like Bishop-Ryan is a step in the right direction.”

When asked if he ever had a team that scored 42 points in a quarter, Grochow said, “Not that I can remember. It was something special to see these kids come together to do that”

Some of the other top performers for last week’s game on offense were: Michels with six catches for 158 yards and three touchdowns. He also had 115 returning yards with one touchdown. Gronvold rushed for 96 yards with one touchdown. He also had 76 yards in receptions with one touchdown and had 38 returning yards. Jaeger contributed 65 yards on the ground with one touchdown, and Kade Leier added 56 yards rushing. All together the Panthers amassed 611 offense including return yardage.

Other top performers on defense were: Gronvold with seven tackles, Leier with six tackles, Jaeger with five tackles, Blackhawk Jones with five tackles, Johnson with four tackles, Jaden Munyer and Longie with three tackles each. The staunch Panther defense held the Lions to 391 yards of total offense.

The Panthers played the Carrington Cardinals on Friday. The next game is on Friday, Sept. 11 against Northern Cass. It is Rugby’s Homecoming came, so come out and show your support.

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