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Lakers stun Panthers in thriller

By Staff | Aug 31, 2018

Alex Eisen/MDN Rugby junior Keith Vetsch (21) recovers a fumble in the first quarter against DLB.

DES LACS – Brayden Bonn took the snap and couldn’t get the ball situated on the grass for what would have been a game-winning extra point in overtime.

Pandemonium ensued.

Des Lacs-Burlington senior Bonn picked up the botched hold and ran for his life. In the back of the end zone, Bonn found a lifeline.

“I didn’t hear the fire call at first, but I saw Bonn rolling out to his left,” DLB senior Garrett Snyder said. “And I thought, ‘Well, I better get out there.’ So, I did my route and when I caught the ball it was amazing.”

A celebration of relief erupted in front of the Lakers’ grandstand.

On a bizarre two-point conversion, Region 3 DLB Lakers escaped its season opener with a 16-14 overtime victory over the Region 2 Rugby Panthers.

“That wasn’t the way you draw things up,” DLB head coach James Johnson said. “But, we put a lot of time into special teams, so even when something fluky happens like that, it worked out because we go through those types of situations a lot in practice.”

The last-ditch toss to Snyder abruptly ended a nonconference game on the first Friday of the Class A football season that looked destined for multiple overtimes.

Rugby (0-1), a team that posted a 1-7 overall record a season ago, had the Lakers (1-0), a playoff team four out of the last five seasons, on the ropes multiple times on their home field.

In overtime, the Panthers took the ball first and scored a touchdown on a rollout pass from junior Jaden Hamilton to fellow junior Corey Mattern.

“We go to overtime and do exactly what we need to, but just missed on the two-point conversion,” Rugby co-head coach Beau Ericksson said. “We had a chance to stop them and send it to an extra overtime, but we lost on a busted play. That’s hard. They were going to kick it, we were in the right position and a guy just escaped and made something happen.”

Before the extra point heroics, DLB had to match Rugby’s overtime touchdown. Junior quarterback Dante Gunville connected with junior Jameson Lesmann, who toe-tapped the touchdown in at the front pylon.

Rugby’s Hamilton-Mattern duo also hooked up on a 80-yard touchdown pass for the first score of the game with 2:30 remaining in the third quarter. That put DLB on edge and had them trailing 8-0 entering the fourth quarter.

“We didn’t fold tonight,” Ericksson said. “We would have folded earlier last year. But, these guys showed some grit and we have to grind out some wins this year. We are going to get better because of this loss.”

Turnovers and unable to convert on fourth down plagued the Lakers throughout the game.

DLB finally found the end zone for the first time with 9:52 left in the fourth quarter. Gunville picked out Bonn, who had to secure a leaping catch.

They connected again on the two-point conversion to tie the game at 8-8.

The ball changed hands multiple times in the final five minutes of regulation.

Most notably, Rugby’s Devan Michels picked off Gunville with under 30 seconds left and brought the ball back to the Lakers’ 14-yard line.

Moments later, DLB returned the favor and Blake Wacha came up with an interception to force overtime.

“I wasn’t lying when I told our guys we are going to have to be patient,” Johnson said. “We got some young kids, and this is going to take a little bit of time. But, this is how you get better Just this one game experience of 48-plus minutes, the kids grow up in a hurry.”

The Lakers open conference play next Friday at Velva, the defending Class A Region 3 champions.

Rugby challenged last season’s Class A state runner-up Langdon Area/Edmore/Munich Friday.

Eisen is the sports editor for the Minot Daily News.

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