Picks, plays provide path for Panthers
Three defensive picks and huge plays on offense helped pave the way for a 22-8 Rugby Panther victory over the Des Lacs-Burlington Lakers in the former’s home opener last Friday at Johnsen Field.
After both teams’ opening drives bore no fruit, the Lakers struck first with a touchdown following a Jameson Lesmann return into Panther territory. Sophomore running back Caleb Rist would run for 13 yards for the score, and quarterback Dante Gunville connected with Lesmann on the conversion-giving the Lakers their first, and only, lead of the night.
The Panthers’ ensuing drive would find them in Laker territory after three plays, and runs from senior running back Keith Vetsch helped his squad get deeper. After a sack led to a loss of yards and an incomplete pass attempt occurred between senior quarterback Jaden Hamilton and classmate and wideout Devan Michels, the Panthers received a gift in the form of a pass interference call on the Lakers defense. The Panthers took advantage of their gift, setting the stage for a short run for junior running back J.D. Matehs.
The Lakers would keep the ball for the remainder of the first quarter.
However, on the first play of the second quarter, Hamilton would get his first pick of the evening on a Gunville pass attempt. Michels would get one as well with 42 seconds left in the half. Both squads headed into halftime with 8-6 still on the board in the Lakers’ favor.
Both teams would be held scoreless in the third quarter.
With 36 seconds left on the clock, the Panthers would get the ball back on a second Hamilton interception-albeit deep in their own territory.
“I told them going into the game tonight, DL-B’s a big play offense,” said Panthers co-head coach Travis Risovi. “They’ll pound and pound it but they want to take shots down the field. They do. They want to make big plays and they want to score quick. And I told the boys it’s going to be super important tonight that our pass coverage over the top, especially, we were there; we were helping each other out. I told them if they did their jobs tonight, they were gonna get a few.”
Hamilton would start the first play of the fourth quarter with a short keeper and on the next play found Michels for a short pass. Hamilton and sophomore running back Kory Vetsch would each get short runs to put the Panthers on the 21-yard line.
Then Hamilton connected with Michels, who took it to the house on a 79-yard run. Hamilton would run it in himself for the conversion, allowing the Panthers to snatch the lead back 14-8.
Incomplete passes stunted any momentum for the Lakers’ drive after, forcing a turnover on downs.
Rugby would find itself deep in its own territory on the next drive. Keith Vetsch would get a short carry. Then Hamilton found Michels again, this time for a scoring run that was over 90 yards. Hamilton would find classmate/wideout Cody Jundt for the conversion.
The Panthers’ next games on the schedule included a road game against the Harvey-Wells County Hornets; and hosting the Langdon Area-Edmore-Munich Cardinals.
“It’s gonna be a really good game,” Risovi said of the Harvey game. “It’s gonna be a good test for us because they are a very talented program.”
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