The Watertown-Mayer football team was 20 seconds away from a 2-0 start to the season last Friday night, but Derek Dahlke’s 2-yard touchdown run for Belle Plaine capped the Tigers’ second-half comeback and spoiled the Royals’ party in an 18-14 home win for Belle Plaine.
The Royals had led 14-6 at halftime and even after a Belle Plaine touchdown in the third quarter, maintained a 14-12 lead for almost the entire fourth quarter.
“I think we’re all disappointed,” Watertown-Mayer coach Craig Johnson said. “It was a hard-fought game. We were dealing with tremendous heat and fatigue late in the game, but both teams battled it out. To come up short is hard to swallow. Like I told the guys, we had 50 chances to win the game, but we also had 50 changes to lose the game. It just didn’t work out this time.”
After Belle Plaine struck early in the first quarter — just a few minutes into the game on a 2-yard Luke Narveson run — Watertown-Mayer answered quickly. The Royals took a 7-6 lead midway through the first quarter on a 25-yard touchdown run from Jesse Bushman.
The Royals added to the lead early in the second quarter on a 95-yard touchdown scamper from Brett Johnson on a play that seemed bottled up at the start.
“Their defensive tackle piled our double team into a great big pile, and our back just kind of ran into the back of it,” Johnson said. “All of a sudden (Johnson) came around the edge, and I don’t think anybody could see him for awhile, and then down the edge he went.”
The Royals took their 8-point lead into halftime, and with the offense struggling in the second half, the Watertown-Mayer defense tried valiantly to make it stand up. Belle Plaine scored in the third quarter on a 5-yard pass from Narveson to Sam Karl, but the two-point conversion pass attempt failed, preserving the Royals 14-12 lead but only setting them up for heartbreak in the end.
“We couldn’t get anything mustered on offense in the second half,” Johnson said. “Any time we did, we’d mistake. Two games in row we’ve had more than 70 yards in penalties. That’s a lack of discipline and a lack of focus, and we have to get that straightened out.”
The offense’s inability to stay on the field, paired with three turnovers, led to a huge time of possession differential. For the second week in a row, the Royals’ opponent ran far more plays, with Belle Plaine running 72 and Watertown-Mayer running only 41.
Johnson said he think differential eventually took its toll on his team’s defense on a hot night.
“What it really comes down to is that we showed signs of some really good defense, and we showed signs of some really good offense, and we just weren’t consistent enough. That ultimately hurt us, and I think fatigue was a big thing.”
Johnson finished with 138 yards on 12 carries, and Bushman had 47 yards on six carries. Johnson also completed 5 of 12 passes for 43 yards.
Jon Ernst blocked an extra point after Belle Plaine’s first touchdown, forcing the Tigers to play from behind much of the night. Ernst also added three tackles, including one for a loss, and recovered a fumble at the Royals own 10-yard-line, setting up Johnson’s 95-yard scamper.
Andrew Ziegenhagen led the team with 12 tackles, including half a sack. Logan Cooper had 10 tackles, Hunter Hulley had eight, and Bushman and Mike Hetrick both had seven tackles. Hetrick also had a sack, while Luke Sandquist had 1.5 sacks and Bryce Kallenbach and Bill Stauffer added one apiece.
Contact Matt Bunke at email@example.com
Belle Plaine 18, Royals 14
BP – Luke Narveson 2 run (kick blocked)
WM – Jesse Bushman 25 run (Bushman kick)
WM – Brett Johnson 95 run (Bushman kick)
BP – Sam Karl 5 pass from Narveson (pass failed)
BP – Derek Dahlke 2 run (pass failed)
WM 7 7 0 0 14
BP 6 0 6 6 18
Rushing: Brett Johnson 12-138, TD; Jesse Bushman 6-47, TD; Cole Durand 6-22; Jordan Berrios 3-11; Logan Cooper 2-9
Passing: Johnson 5-12-1-0, 43 yds
Receiving: Jack Nolan 1-14; Hunter Hulley 2-9
Tackles: Andrew Ziegenhagen 12, Cooper 10, Hulley 8, Mike Hetrick 7, Bushman 7, Johnson 4, Ryne Alger 4, Aaron Sweeney 4, Luke Sandquist 4, Nate Zellmann 3, Cody Wagner 3, Ernst 3, Tyler Nelson 3, Bryce Kallenbach 2, Nolan 2, Nick Parker, Bill Stauffer
TFL: Ernst, Ziegenhagen
Sacks: Sandquist 1.5, Stauffer 1, Kallenbach 1, Hetrick 1, Ziegenhagen .5