Watertown-Mayer went into its football game at LeSueuer-Henderson last Friday night touting something it hasn’t in a long, long time: a number in front of its name.
No. 10 Watertown-Mayer stayed unbeaten on the year with a 28-7 win over the Giants, moving to 4-0 on the year and setting the stage for a homecoming week expected to be among the most exciting in recent memory at Watertown-Mayer. The Royals sit atop the Minnesota River Conference standings as part of a two-way tie with Tri City United.
“I didn’t see any of this coming,” said Watertown-Mayer coach Craig Johnson, whose program hasn’t had this many wins in a season since 2004. “You do the best you can each week and prepare the kids the best you can. They’re buying into what we’re selling, and it’s just kind of been a nice run.”
The four consecutive wins mark the team’s longest winning streak since 2002, when a five-game winning streak late in the season and playoffs keyed a surprising state tournament run. Johnson said it would be important for his team to stay focused moving forward, especially as the hype increases during a hectic homecoming week.
“We try not to even look at stuff like polls,” he said. “It’s really nice to be 4-0, but right now we want to be 1-0 against Sibley East. … There’s going to be a lot of distractions, and the kids are going to have to learn to deal with success that we haven’t seen here in awhile.”
Against LeSueur-Henderson last week, the Royals wasted little time taking the lead, getting an 8-yard touchdown run from Joe Reinert, his 10th of the season, to take a 7-0 lead with 7:12 left in the first quarter. The Royals extended the lead to 14-0 in the second quarter when quarterback Nick Tschida hooked up with Mark Sandquist for a 7-yard touchdown with 9:38 left in the half.
LeSueur-Henderson got back in the game on a 15-yard touchdown run from Peter Wagner with 2:21 left in the half, but Watertown-Mayer stole the momentum back right from the start in the second half. Reinert returned the opening kickoff of the half 80 yards for a touchdown, giving the Royals a 21-7 lead.
“That took the win out of their sails a little bit and put us in control of the game,” Johnson said of what he considered the game’s biggest turning point.
Tschida added a 9-yard touchdown run with 3:57 left in the third quarter to put the game away for the Royals. Reinert finished as the team’s leading rusher once again, racking up 147 yards and 25 carries, while Tschida had 30 yards on six carries and Max Zitzloff had 46 yards on 10 carries.
“Reinert had another great game running the ball,” Johnson said. “Nick Tschida played another great game. He just kind of takes control and makes good decisions. That’s key in our offense.”
As a team, the Royals ran for 246 yards, an impressive total, but one that actually marked the first time this season that the Royals failed to go over 300. However, Johnson said he felt the offensive line did a great job once again, and made some nice adjustments throughout the course of the game.
“In the first half (LeSueur-Henderson) was doing some things that were messing us up,” Johnson said. “In the second half we make a couple of tweaks, and the kids adjusted well to that. That really helped us control the game in the second half.”
Defensively, the Royals were led by seven tackles from Zitzloff and six from Logan Cooper. Luke Sandquist added five tackles, including two for a loss, and also blocked a punt. Tschida and P.J. Hangartner had interceptions.
“I thought Luke Sandquist had a very good game defensively,” Johnson said. He played with a tremendous amount of intensity.”
Homecoming distractions aside, the Royals will face a stiff test from Sibley East on Friday night. The Wolverines are 3-1, and are coming off a 49-18 road win over Belle Plaine. The Wolverines lost big to Mayer Lutheran in Week 2, but in their other three games are averaging 46.3 points.
“They run a wishbone power type of offense,” Johnson said. “Their offensive line is big and they come off the ball better than any team I’ve seen this year. They have some speed in their halfbacks. They have a great big fullback and they have a big tight end they like to spread outside against smaller corners. We made some adjustments to compensate for that. I have no doubts in my mind it will be our most challenging game so far this year.”
This week’s homecoming game will also be the team’s Tackle Cancer game, benefiting the Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund. Numerous teams throughout the metro area are holding similar Tackle Cancer games this year to benefit the KARE 11 news anchor’s fund. The fund is dedicated to supporting the cancer community in Minnesota by funding research, prevention, treatment and other programs relating to the cancer community’s needs.
WM 7 7 7 7 28
LSH 0 7 0 0 7
WM – Joe Reinert 8 run (Jesse Bushman kick)
WM- Mark Sandquist 7 pass from Nick Tschida (Bushman kick)
LSH – Peter Wagner 15 run (Alex Klockmann kick)
WM — Reinert 80 kickoff return (Bushman kick)
WM – Tschida 9 run (Bushman kick)
Passing – Nick Tschida 6-11-0-68, TD
Rushing – Joe Reinert 25-147, TD; Max Zitzloff 10-46; Tschida 6-30, TD; Logan Cooper 3-13
Receiving – Mark Sandquist 2-24, TD; Hunter Hulley 2-15; Luke Sandquist 1-23
Tackles – Zitzloff 7, Cooper 6, , L. Sandquist 5, Jesse Bushman 4, P. J. Hangartner 4, Tschida 3, Justin Lawrence 3, Hulley 3, Brett Johnson 2, Reinert 2, Jon Ernst 2, Austin Torres, Zach Iten, Cody Wagner, Nick Burns, Brendan Weege
TFL – L. Sandquist 2, Lawrence, Torres, Cooper, Bushman
Interceptions – Tschida, Hangartner