Muddy win in Carrington for Panthers
“It’s not the most fun night to play football,” Rugby High School varsity football coach Travis Risovi said last Friday night when the Panthers traveled to Carrington to face the Cardinals.
“It’s cold and we didn’t realize it was going to be as wet as it was.”
Still, the Panthers celebrated a soggy, muddy 28-0 victory, cheered on by enthusiastic Rugby fans, many of whom stayed in their warm pickup trucks and honked their horns after each touchdown.
Both Panthers and Cardinals seemed to spend the first half of the game just finding their footing on the slippery field. Water pooled in shallow ditches between the school’s running track and the turf, and cleats turned up clumps of mud when players moved across each yard line.
The Panthers made the most of every scoring opportunity that came their way.
A first-quarter turnover by Carrington’s Lucas Hendrickson set up the Panthers’ first touchdown of the game. A Jaden Hamilton handoff to Keith Vetsch put the first six Panther points on the board. Although an extra point attempt veered away from the goal posts, the Panthers made up for the miss in the second half.
Another Panther score from a turnover occurred in the third-quarter, when a Carrington fumble set up a drive ending with an 18-yard Hamilton pass completion to Cody Jundt. A two-point conversion pass to Cole Slaubaugh followed, and the Panthers took a 14-0 lead.
The Cardinals attempted to regroup, but a mud-stained Panther defense kept them at bay. Limited progress made by Hendrickson was wiped out by a penalty for an illegal forward pass, and the Panthers took possession after fourth down.
The Panthers saw their own share of penalties; a Keith Vetsch carry was pushed back 10 yards on an offensive holding call.
Setbacks didn’t pose much of a problem for Rugby however, and Hamilton soon connected on a 38-yard pass with Corey Mattern for a touchdown, and Tim Mueller kicked in an extra point to put the Panther lead at 21-0 at the end of the third quarter.
After Rugby again shut down the Cardinal offense in the fourth-quarter, Hamilton connected with Mattern this time with a 47-yard pass and Mueller kicked another extra point for a decisive 28-0 Panthers win.
After one fourth-quarter play, Cardinal Colton Buskness lay on the muddy field, and medical staff transported him to the hospital.
“They took him off for something precautionary,” Cardinal coach Kyle Smith told the Tribune after the game. “We hope he’s all right. I don’t have any status on him at all.”
Smith added, “We knew coming in we had to do two things. We had to take care of the ball, and we didn’t do a very good job of that, and we had to prevent the big play, and we didn’t do a very good job of that.”
“Part of that is, you’ve got to give credit to Rugby,” Smith said. “They’re skilled kids; they’re big, they’re fast, they’re athletic, and it showed on the field tonight. Their skilled kids outplayed our skilled kids and we turned the ball over too much, and that’s why you end up with a score like that.”
Panther coach Risovi said, “The boys played really, really hard, from the first snap to the end of the game, and I was really proud of them.”
Risovi said he was pleased to see Mueller progress as a kicker.
“He wants to kick the football, and he’s working hard in practice,” Risovi said. “He’s putting his time in to get better at it, and you can see it. He kicks the ball really well on kickoffs and extra points and field goals.”
Of the two touchdowns resulting from turnovers, Risovi noted, “I tell them all the time on defense, if we can cause a couple of turnovers and give our offense good field position; those are the big plays that turn a game around.”
Risovi added with a smile, “I told them before the game that they were going to happen, if we played hard and tackled hard, and we got after them, they were going to happen, because it was hard to hang onto the football tonight.”
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