After an early 24-yard field goal from Jesse Bushman, defensive tackle Jon Ernst gave his team a big boost when he recovered a fumble and returned it 65 yards for a touchdown with 27 seconds left in the first quarter, giving his team a 10-0 lead.
A 17-yard touchdown pass for Rockford with 5:58 left to play in the third quarter cut the Royals lead to 10-7, and was cause for concern for a Watertown-Mayer team that hadn’t done much on offense since the game’s opening drive. However, the Royals answered right back with a 10-play, 64-yard touchdown drive to take control of the game.
On the second-play of the fourth quarter, quarterback Brett Johnson scrambled down the left sideline for a 17-yard touchdown to give his team a 17-7 lead, which it would hold throughout the rest of the night.
Prior to that game-clinching touchdown drive, the Royals’ most impressive offensive work came on the opening drive. Ryne Alger — who later made two big defensive plays that played a major role in the win — returned the opening kickoff to the 47-yard-line to put his team in great field position to start the night.
The Royals’ called Logan Cooper’s number on the first five plays of the game, as he racked up 29 yards on five carries to move his team down to Rockford’s 25-yard line. However, after Jesse Bushman carried twice for 18 yards and took the ball all the way down to the 7-yard line, a false start penalty ultimately derailed the drive and left the Royals to settle for Bushman’s 24-yard field goal.
The Royals ran only five more offensive plays the rest of the half, however, and picked up just one first down. After Ernst’s defensive touchdown, the Royals forced Rockford to go 3-and-out, but quickly turned the ball back over on a fumble at Rockford’s 22-yard line.
Rockford proceeded to run out nearly the entire first half on its next drive, which lasted 20 plays and was extended once by a pass interference penalty on third-and-long, and once after Rockford was ruled to have recovered its own fumble even though the Royals’ Matt Pysick came out of the pile with the ball.
Rockford eventually took the ball inside Watertown-Mayer’s 10 yard line in the final minute of the half, but was unable to come away with points. On third-and-goal from the 8, the Rockets ran a fade to the back left corner of the end zone, but the pass was caught out of bounds. They tried the same play again on fourth down, but this time Royals’ cornerback Ryne Alger — locked in perfect coverage — ripped the ball away from the receiver to preserve the 10-0 halftime lead.
After Johnson’s touchdown run gave the Royals a 17-7 lead late in the third quarter, Alger added his second big play on defense. Rockford had a first down at the Royals’ 27-yard-line, but Alger came up with an interception to keep the momentum on the Royals’ side.
Cooper finished with a team-high 59 rushing yards on 12 carries, while Nick Parker, who came in at quarterback in the fourth quarter and ran out the clock by repeatedly moving the chains with 5-yard quarterback sneaks, finished with 41 yards on a team-high 13 carries.
The Royals attempted just two passes in the game, and the long completion resulted in a fumble. The team had 221 yards on the ground.
Bushman led the team with seven tackles, while Alger, Hunter Hulley and Aaron Sweeney had five apiece. Cooper, Ernst and Luke Sandquist each finished with one sack, and Ernst and Mike Hetrick each recovered a fumble.
The Royals will return to action this Friday night, Sept. 6, at 7 p.m. at Belle Plaine. The Tigers are coming off a 34-13 home win over New Ulm.
Watertown-Mayer 17, Rockford 7
WM – Jesse Bushman 24 FG
WM – Jon Ernst 65 Fumble Ret. (Bushman kick)
R – No. 48 17 pass from No. 15 (kick good)
WM – Brett Johnson 17 run (Bushman kick)
Rockford 0 0 7 0 7
Royals 10 0 7 0 17
Passing: Brett Johnson 1-2-0-8
Rushing: Logan Cooper 12-59; Nick Parker 13-41; Brett Johnson 8-31, TD; Cole Durand 5-33; Jesse Bushman 3-25; Jordan Berrios 3-21; Ryne Alger 1-11
Receiving: Tyler Nelson 1-8
Tackles: Bushman 7, Alger 5, Aaron Sweeney 5, Hunter Hulley 5, Andrew Ziegenhagen 4, Johnson 3, Bill Stauffer 3, Luke Sandquist 3, Cooper 2, Ernst 2, Jack Nolan 2, Cam Killian, Parker, Matt Pysick, Nate Zellmann, Nathan Dressel, Nelson
TFL: Nolan 2; Hulley 2
Sacks: Cooper, Ernst, Sandquist
Fumble Rec: Ernst, Mike Hetrick