Panthers cap homecoming week with 18-6 win over WNG
The Rugby Panthers topped off a week of homecoming fun with a much-needed win against Westhope-Newburg-Glenburn’s Sioux at Rugby’s Johnsen Field Sept. 24.
Panthers Head Coach Travis Risovi said the 18-6 win put Rugby’s record at 3-3. The win also kept the Panthers’ hopes for a spot in the playoffs alive.
“I was very happy with how we played tonight. We missed some plays. We left some plays out on the field, but we played really hard tonight,” Risovi said of the Panthers. “They got after it. And that’s what we have to do now. This was a good start for us.”
Alumni from the classes of ’70, ’71, ’80, ’81 and ’91 sat in the stands to cheer on their home team. Decked out in Panthers gear and colorful accessories, Rugby’s student section cheered even louder.
The Panthers received the opening kick. Tailback Riley Tuenge made two impressive carries from the ball’s start at the five-yard line. With the ball on the Panthers’ own 40, quarterback Brody Schneibel launched a pass to wingback Logan Harner for a 61-yard touchdown. A two-point conversion attempt failed, and the quarter ended with a 6-0 Panthers lead.
Rugby’s Kory Vetsch led the way for the defense, shutting down Sioux quarterback Walker Braaten at every opportunity. Vetsch would also catch the second-longest pass of the game, a 37-yard throw by Schneibel, who increased his passing stats by over 100 yards from his last two games.
Schneibel’s 202-yard passing total included two completions to his brother, Austin. Although both defenses kept each other in check for two quarters, the Panthers’ offense broke wide open toward the end of the third quarter. With the ball on the Sioux nine yard-line, a carry by Tuenge set up first and goal. One pass attempt later, Schneibel connected with tight end Bryceton Deplazes for TD number two. Another two-point conversion attempt went astray, but the Panthers led 12-0.
Unable to make any gains, WNG punted again. With the ball at midfield, Vetsch carried twice, the second time for 20 yards. With the ball positioned on WNG’s five-yard line, Vetsch carried the ball in for a third Panthers TD.
Still unable to nab a two-pointer, the Panthers kicked the ball to midfield this time. Braaten saw the clock running down and his options limited, with Panthers defenders all over the Sioux. Braaten began running the ball to gain yards for WNG.
One deep pass to receiver Colton Bowers gave the Sioux the opportunity to deny Rugby a shutout.
With the ball at the two-yard line, Braaten moved past the goal line for six points.
Next for the Sioux came a delay of game penalty as they strategized for a make-or-break punt. The onside kick attempt failed and the Panthers took over on their 37-yard line.
The game seemed to turn in favor of WNG when the Sioux recovered the ball at their own 45 yard line, but Braaten found passing opportunities limited. He rushed again, gaining ten yards on a play, but a blindside block penalty against WNG wiped out his gain.
A bad snap and what seemed like a pickoff and touchdown by Panthers free safety Erik Foster turned the game back for Rugby. However, penalties negated the TD and pushed the Panthers back.
Time was running out and the Panthers had 24 yards to go on a fourth down. Rugby punted again.
This time, Braaten found a receiver when he completed a pass to Ethan Andahl. The Panthers turned up the pressure. When Foster batted a fourth down Hail Mary pass away, the ball belonged to Rugby again. The game ended with an 18-6 Panthers victory.
As the game ended, Risovi said the Panthers still needed to work on limiting penalties. However, he was happy overall with the team’s performance.
“We’re still in the playoffs,” Risovi said. “We’ve just got to keep winning. Next is Nedrose. It’s a really big game.”
Risovi said he believed the game built confidence for the team, especially for Schneibel, who had returned from a months-long recovery period for a torn ACL two games before.
“Tonight, you can see Brody’s starting to get back. He’s starting to get his timing and rhythm,” Risovi said. “If Brody gets that back, we still have our running game and we’re more of a complete team. I saw glimpses of it tonight. I saw a couple of good passes from Brody to Austin,” Risovi added.
“Hopefully, we can just keep working on that,” Risovi added. “I’m hoping it’s a confidence builder for them.”
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