Win against WNG Sioux caps ‘fun’ week for Panther football players
The day before the Rugby Panthers took the field in Westhope Oct. 9 for a game against the Westhope/Newburg/ Glenburn Sioux, the offensive line gave a unique welcome to assistant coach Luke Bacon.
The team donned T-shirts in green and gold, a nod to Bacon’s alma mater NDSU, with Bacon’s Bison jersey number 71 on their backs. The shirts’ fronts read, “Everything’s Better with Bacon.”
Bacon, a former Bison offensive lineman, teaches social studies at Rugby High in addition to coaching the Panthers.
“It was pretty neat,” Bacon said of the surprise the team gave him when they came to their Thursday practice wearing the shirts. “They pulled a fast one on me. I knew nothing about it. It was pretty cool to see those guys wearing all those T-shirts.”
Offensive lineman Ethan Brandt said the idea for the shirts came from “a mix of all of us offensive linemen. The majority of the idea came from the Schneibel brothers. They did a great job with it.”
Brody Schneibel is the quarterback for the Panthers. His brother, Cole is an offensive lineman and his brother Austin is a running back on the team.
The team had more in store for their coaching staff and Panther fans the next day, when they added a 27-18 win to their record, keeping their hopes for playoff games alive.
“That’s our goal. One game at a time,” said Head Coach Travis Risovi after the win.“We have to take care of business, and they know that. That’s three weeks in a row that they came out and played hard and really well. I’m just proud of them.”
Both teams’ defenses thwarted attempts to move the ball downfield for most of the first quarter. A Schneibel pass to Lathan DeMontigny set up a scoring opportunity as the clock ran down to the second quarter, however. Carries by Riley Tuenge and Tim Mueller brought the ball inches from the goal line before Tuenge moved the ball through the Sioux defensive line for the first touchdown.
Mueller kicked an extra point through the goalposts, giving the Panthers a lead they would keep throughout the game.
The home crowd in Westhope anticipated a tie when wide receiver Blaine Stevens assumed the Panthers fumbled on their place kick after the TD and ran the ball into the end zone, but the play was instead ruled a first down for the Sioux.
Westhope continued to struggle against the Panther defenses. Inside linebacker Kory Vetsch picked off a pass by Sioux quarterback Jalyn Derr, setting up a Schneibel pass to tight end Cole Slaubaugh for touchdown number two in the second quarter.
An offside penalty call on the Sioux disrupted another Mueller extra point attempt, so the Panthers decided on a two-point conversion. The carry by Schneibel put the Panthers in the lead 15-0.
Midway through the game, the Sioux answered with a touchdown when Derr completed a long pass to Elijah Kelly. However, the Sioux failed to add any extra points to their six.
The Panthers made slow progress in the third quarter as the Sioux turned their aggression up. Rugby’s defensive line kept their pressure up as well, sacking Derr and keeping the Sioux far from their end zone.
Penalties began to take their toll on Rugby as the third quarter progressed. At several points, the Panthers had 20 yards to go before their next first down.
Vetsch kept his focus, carrying the ball for a long first down, setting up another Panther touchdown before Sioux defensive lineman Devin Heinze blocked an extra point kick attempt.
The Panthers held a 21-6 lead early in the fourth quarter before Derr found his way around Rugby’s defense to connect a long with Kelly for a first down. More Sioux pass attempts missed their mark. Cole Schneibel and Dylan Bartsch sacked Derr, resulting in a turnover on downs.
The Panthers struck back with a 40 yard carry by Brody Schneibel, setting up another Panther touchdown.
The Panthers led 27-6 with fewer than eight minutes to go in the game before Derr found Kelly yet again for a Sioux touchdown. A two-point conversion failed, but a charged-up Sioux defensive line kept the Panthers at bay. After taking possession from a turnover on downs, the Sioux executed a series of carries and took advantage of Panther penalties. A carry by offensive lineman Wyatt Lemay put the ball five yards from the goal, setting up a touchdown by Sioux wide receiver Preston Peters.
The Panthers held a narrow 27-18 lead with just over two minutes to go. They batted an attempted Sioux two-point conversion and moved the ball steadily into Westhope territory, adding 15 yards after a horse-collar tackle call on the Sioux. The clock ticked away, and Rugby wrapped up the game with a 27-18 final score.
“They’re excited,” Risovi said of the Panthers after their win. “If you could hear them on the sidelines tonight and see the smiles on their faces, they were just kids having fun playing a fun game, and that’s what football’s all about.”
Risovi said the Panthers looked forward to their home game against Bottineau Friday.
“We’re going to go back to work Monday like we do every week, and come Friday night, we’ll be ready to play.” Risovi said.
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