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Rugby football handles DLB, 24-8, in Aug. 28 contest

By JIMMY LAFAKIS - The Minot Daily News Staff Writer | Sep 5, 2020

Jimmy Lafakis/MDN Rugby senior running back Joel Matehs (white) cuts upfield during the Aug. 28 game in Des Lacs.

DES LACS — As a crisp breeze swirled through the air, Joel Matehs churned ahead. When the Rugby Panthers needed Matehs to produce at the Aug. 28 contest against Des Lacs/Burlington, the senior running back scored two early rushing touchdowns.

“He’s such a talented back,” Rugby head coach Travis Risovi said. “It’s too bad that his legs cramped up there in the second half. I think he was just starting to get rolling. He’s pretty fun to watch once he gets out in open space.”

After Rugby’s stout defense helped the Panthers gain prime field position in the early stages, Matehs displayed his knack for finding paydirt inside the red zone. The Panthers claimed a 12-0 advantage over the Lakers and took their lead into the intermission.

“It’s just a morale boost for the team,” Matehs said. “It gets everybody up and pumped.”

As the action progressed, both teams favored the ground game. The Panthers stopped the Lakers on their first drive in the second half.

“That’s where it all starts — up front and right there with our linebackers,” Risovi said. “The rest of the kids just follow them. They’re learning, and they’re just following their lead and example. They’re getting the job done.”

The third quarter featured some back-and-forth play between the squads. DLB senior defensive back Ryan Albertson picked off two passes, but the Panthers held their ground. Rugby sophomore safety Erik Foster sent the Panthers’ sideline into a frenzy after he snagged an interception of his own.

When the dust settled after the third frame, Rugby’s 12-0 lead remained intact. Right after the fourth quarter began, Rugby’s special teams unit made a critical play in the coffin corner.

The Panthers took control of the ball at DLB’s one-yard line. Then, junior running back Kory Vetsch gave Rugby some additional breathing room as he muscled his way across the plane.

Leading 18-0, the Panthers made another defensive stand. Sophomore quarterback Brody Schneibel marched down the field and punched in a three-yard rushing touchdown.

DLB senior running back Justin Carter put the Lakers on the board with a late rushing touchdown. At that point, Rugby ran down the clock.

The final minutes ticked by, and the Panthers walked away with the 24-8 road victory.

“It just helps us with our confidence,” Matehs said. “This year is still uncertain, but we’re hoping to go far.”

Both teams hosted games this past Friday. Rugby played Harvey/Wells County while DLB faced Tioga.

“We’re going to get into the region play,” Risovi said. “We’re excited to go play those games that really mean everything to us. It’s going to be where we get this season. I think these were good warm-up games for us against good, quality opponents. We’re just excited to make a playoff run.”

Jimmy Lafakis covers Minot High School sports and Class B high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @JJLII30.

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