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‘Rebuilt’ Panther offense bats down Cardinals

By Staff | Aug 29, 2020

Sue Sitter/PCT Panther running back J.D. Matehs runs the ball down field in last week’s win against the Nedrose Cardinals.

The Rugby High Panthers started their football season last week with a 14-6 win against the Nedrose Cardinals and what Coach Travis Risovi said was a restructured team.

“Basically, this was all new,” Risovi said as he congratulated the players after the game against the Region 3 team. “With Coach Erikson leaving, I passed the defense off to (Tyler) Green and moved over to the offensive side. Basically, we started from ground zero. We installed a whole new offense and each week, it’s just going to get better.”

The rebuilt Panther offense showed off their new skills halfway through the first quarter, when quarterback Brody Schneibel connected with running back J.D. Matehs for a touchdown, to be followed by a two-point conversion when Schneibel handed the ball off to tight end Cole Slaubaugh.

The Panther defense went to work next, shutting down the Cardinals’ running back Cameron Bailey as he and quarterback Ethan Miller tried to move the ball down the field. The Panther defense would repeat their performance again for the next quarter.

The Cardinals’ defense struck back, forcing a Panther turnover on downs. The Panthers kept the Cardinals far away from scoring range. Panther free safety Erik Foster picked off a Miller pass, but a scoring opportunity stayed out of reach until the Panthers took possession on downs again at the Nedrose 42 yard line, setting up a second touchdown when Schneibel connected with Slaubaugh.

The Panthers’ attempt at a two-point conversion failed, and the first half ended with a 14-0 Rugby lead.

The second half saw the Cardinals swarm around the Panthers like the bugs flying in the warm evening air.

Cardinal linebacker Michael Kalamaha recovered a Panther fumble, setting up a touchdown when Miller connected with wide receiver Joe Roberts. The Panthers shut down Nedrose’s attempt at a two-point conversion, and the third quarter ended with the Panthers holding their lead.

The fourth quarter saw both teams’ defensive squads dominate as their offensive players struggled. The Panthers held their 14-6 lead and they nabbed their first win.

“We fought hard,” Risovi said of the Panthers. “We made a lot of mistakes, but we’re a really young team and it’s the first game of the year with basically an all-new offense.”

“It’s a new look and we made mistakes,” Risovi noted, “but the thing was, the effort was there and we played really, really hard, and that’s the reason we won we fought.”

The Panthers will face the Des Lacs-Burlington Lakers in another non-region game next week at Des Lacs-Burlington High School. The Panthers return for a home game Sept. 4 against the Harvey-Wells County Hornets.

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