Rugby Rises To The Occasion With Victory
Friday night against the Lakota-Edmore-Dakota Prairie Raiders became an unexpected struggle.
With three critical injuries to senior star starters Victor Gronvold, Ryan Michels and Trevor Longie, and with the team struggling to find itself, the riverboat gambler Coach Scott Grochow, with ice water in his veins, went for it on 4th and 10 on their own 35. It was a critical point of the game. with the Panthers trailing 12-20. About that gutsy call Grochow said, “I talked to the coaches and just said we are going for it! I then looked right at Coach [Kevin] Leier, our defensive coordinator, he said okay and then he said if we don’t get I know you can stop them and everybody said ok and so we went for it.”
It was that belief in his team that helped spur the Panthers to victory. The victory had so many twists and turns. The Panthers went in at halftime trailing 6-12. The third quarter also started rough with the Raiders scoring on a 5-yard run then successfully converting on a two-point conversion, taking the lead 12-20.
That was when Grochow pulled from his years of experience and made the call. After converting on 4th-down the Panthers went on to score on a 20-yard jaunt by Anders Johnson, with the two-point conversion failing. The Panthers went into the fourth quarter trailing 18-20, but the momentum of the game had swung.
That was when the Panther defense found its footing and held the Raiders scoreless for the rest of the game. The defense was led by the highly spirited Hunter Hager, who had nine tackles, and Blackhawk Jones, who, with bad shoulder and all clogged up the middle with blitz after blitz, threw his body in harm’s way and swallowed the pain like energizer pills. Kade Leier, with some hard-nose football, had six tackles. Kaden Jaeger and Jaden Munyer also had five tackles for the night. Ethan Clements, Ethan Morin and Johnson contributed three tackles, with Devin Vetsch and Michels totaling a tackle apiece
The offense also rose to the occasion in the fourth quarter with Johnson completing a 10-yard pass to Jaeger for a score and then Johnson carrying it in himself for the two-point conversion, putting the Panthers ahead for good 26-20. Johnson wasn’t finished he intercepted an errant pass and ran it in for a score then again carried the ball across the goal line for the two-point conversion making it 34-20. Johnson ended the scoring onslaught with a 6-yard pass to Clements, and then hit Hager for two points ending the scoring for the night 42-30 and a solid win spoiling another homecoming game for the home team.
When asked about his assessment of his team’s play Grochow said, “I’m very proud of what they did. We had some kids that just stepped up after the injuries we suffered. I think we felt a little sorry for ourselves at first and we kind of gave up.” He continued, “We let them do some things we normally wouldn’t let an opponent do. Then all of a sudden it was like ok we had enough. We had some kids step up. I think Blackhawk did a great job, Hunter Hager was a field general out there and did some good things both offensively and defensively as did Anders Johnson. I think our lineman stepped up and did a nice job and those guys that came into those roles. Kaden Jaeger stepped up, Ethan Clemens stepped up, and Landen Foster really stepped up. Those guys are guys that haven’t been used to playing and to be really honest with you they haven’t even practiced at some of those positions because we felt we had enough depth on them and bam all of sudden with Trevor gone Victor and Ryan gone We don’t have that luxury anymore.” He concluded, “It was great football and I couldn’t be more proud of the players.”
The Panthers racked up 380 yards of total offense whole holding the Raiders to 202 yards. Jaeger led all rushers with 72 yards, followed by Johnson with 67 yards and Kade Leier with 55 yards. Johnson also had 185 yards in the air with 3 touchdowns going 13-19. Hager was his favorite target catching 9 balls for 99 yards, followed by Jaeger with 3 catches for 47 yards, Landen Foster with two catches for 33 yards, and Clements who had one reception for 6 yards.
With the victory Rugby remains undefeated in regional play.