Norwood Young America may have entered Friday night’s Minnesota River Conference football game with an 0-5 record, but the Raiders looked like anything but a winless team during their battle against Watertown-Mayer.
The Raiders ultimately emerged with their sixth loss of the season, but gave the Royals everything they could handle as Watertown-Mayer escaped with a 19-14 win on Joe Reinert’s fourth-quarter touchdown run to move to 5-1 on the year, and reclaim a share of the conference lead.
“They played a good physical game, made some big plays, and that certainly gave us all that we wanted to deal with,” Watertown-Mayer coach Craig Johnson said.
Norwood Young America drew first blood with a 12-yard touchdown run from Noah Peterson on the game’s opening possession, took a 14-13 lead into halftime, and maintained that one-point edge until midway through the fourth quarter. But the Royals, who Johnson thought may have panicked the previous week against Sibley East when they found themselves playing from behind for the first time this season, remained calm this time.
Trailing 14-13 entering the fourth quarter, Johnson huddled his team together and certainly didn’t understate the importance of the final 12 minutes for a team that was still in a conference title race.
“I said this quarter may define our season,” Johnson said. “We’re down 14-13 and we have two tough games coming up. How are we going to respond to that?
“There were a lot of determined eyes in that huddle after the third quarter. I just had a good feeling we’d be able to pull this thing off put together a scoring drive. We were lucky enough to do that.”
Reinert’s 4-yard touchdown run with 6:42 left in the game gave the Royals a 19-14 lead, and ultimately the win. With Tri City United’s 15-13 loss to Sibley East, the Royals regained part of a four-way tie for first place in the MRC with Tri City, Sibley East and Mayer Lutheran. All four teams are now 5-1 overall and 4-1 in the conference, and the Royals will face two of those teams to close the season. The Royals travel to take on Tri City United on Friday at 7 p.m., and close the regular season with a home game against Mayer Lutheran on Wednesday, Oct. 17.
“That is probably as huge of a two-game stretch as we’ve had here in a long time,” Johnson said. “We do control our own destiny to some point but to have them back to back is a tough situation. But, you play the schedule as its given, and hopefully we prepare well and will be ready.”
Without the late rally against Norwood Young America, however, the Royals may not even be thinking about a conference title at this point. Peterson’s first-quarter touchdown run for the Raiders gave them a 6-0 lead with 7:59 left in the first quarter and fired up the NYA sideline. The Royals answered quickly, however, getting a 15-yard touchdown run from quarterback Nick Tschida to tie the game with 4:12 left in the first quarter.
The Royals added to that lead with another touchdown run from Tschida in the second quarter, this one coming from 1-yard out on a quarterback sneak with 3:16 left in the half. At that point, with a 13-6 lead, all the momentum seemed to be with the Royals, who had largely shut the Raiders down after their quick scoring burst to open the game.
But Norwood Young America stole that momentum right back heading into the locker room, getting a 4-yard touchdown pass from Isaac Hormann to Luke Marschall to take a 14-13 lead into halftime.
“They definitely had all the momentum going into the third quarter,” Johnson said.
Watertown-Mayer was led by offensively by Reinert, who had 119 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, his fifth 100-yard effort in six games this season. With the touchdown, his 12th of the season, he has now scored at least once in each game.
Tschida added 56 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries, and also went 5-for-11 for 80 yards through the air. Max Zitzloff had 11 carries for 43 yards for the Royals.
Austin Torres and Jesse Bushman led the Watertown-Mayer defense with six tackles apiece, and P.J. Hangartner had an interception. Jon Ernst added five tackles, while Zitzloff and Luke Sandquist had four apiece.
Norwood Young America 14
NYA 6 8 0 0 14
WM 6 7 0 6 19
NYA – Noah Peterson 12 run (try failed)
WM – Nick Tschida 15 run (kick failed)
WM – Tschida 1 run (Bushman kick)
NYA – Luke Marschall 4 pass from Isaac Hormann (Hormann run)
WM – Joe Reinert 4 run (try failed)
Rushing: Reinert 20-119, TD; Tschida 16-56, 2TD; Max Zitzloff 11-43; Logan Cooper 1-4
Passing: Tschida 5-11-0-80
Receiving: Luke Sandquist 3-63; Hunter Hulley 1-10; Mark Sandquist 1-7
Tackles: Austin Torres 6, Jesse Bushman 6, Jon Ernst 5 (1 TFL), Luke Sandquist 4, Max Zitzloff 4, Nick Tschida 3, Logan Cooper 2, P.J. Hangartner 2, Brett Johnson 2, Nick Burns 2, Justin Lawrence 2, Hunter Hulley 2