Royals recover from slow start, rout LeSueur-Henderson 37-13

Twitter SportsAgainst a team that had been outscored 70-7 in the first two weeks of the season, last Friday’s game against LeSueur-Henderson sure didn’t start the way the Royals wanted.

The first minute and 40 seconds though, is about the only thing that didn’t go the Royals way against the Giants.

After an early Royals turnover and subsequent 46-yard halfback option pass for a touchdown on the Giants’ first play of the game, the Royals trailed 7-0 with 10:19 still to play in the first quarter. But Brett Johnson’s 59-yard touchdown run on the Royals very next play from scrimmage drew the Royals within 7-6, and Watertown-Mayer cruised the rest of the way en route to a 37-13 victory that boosted the Royals’ record to 2-1 overall and 1-1 in the Minnesota River Conference.

“We were able to overcome that slow start and get back on track right away,” Watertown-Mayer coach Craig Johnson said. “We went down and scored on our next drive, and a couple of drives after that, we scored again, and we just took control from there. I thought we made some nice strides in our game.”

By halftime, the Royals had expanded their lead to 23-7, and they quickly pushed their advantage to 30-7 on Johnson’s 40-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter. The two-play, 88-yard touchdown drive for the Royals included 48 and 40 yard runs from Johnson, who also scored on a 95-yard scamper last week in  a loss at Belle Plaine.

Against LeSueur-Henderson, he finished with 125 yards on nine carries.

“I give him a lot of credit, because there is a lot of pressure on the quarterback in our system,” Johnson said. “His job is to come down the line and read the defense. He’s just doing a really good job of making decisions on his feet.”

The momentum from Johnson’s second long touchdown scamper was briefly halted when LeSueur-Henderson’s Tremaine Wadley returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown, his second touchdown of the game, to cut the lead to 30-13. However, a couple of long runs for Jesse Bushman on the ensuing possession set up senior fullback Logan Cooper for a 4-yard touchdown, giving the Royals a 37-13 lead late in the third quarter. When LSH fumbled several plays later, the Royals were able to use up much of the remaining time on the clock with a drive that lasted 15 plays before the Royals finally turned it over on downs.

“I’m proud of our kids to come off a loss and put it behind them, and put together a good game,” Johnson said. “I thought they played with confidence and with some poise.”

Though a missed extra point had the Royals trailing 7-6 after the exchange of early touchdowns, the Royals took the lead for good on a 12-play, 66-yard touchdown drive that was capped by an 11-yard touchdown strike from Johnson to Luke Sandquist. Johnson’s two-point conversion run made it 14-7 with 9:06 left in the half.

The Royals next drive ended when they fumbled deep in LSH territory, and the Giants recovered at their own 3-yard-line. However, the turnover actually ended up turning what could have been seven points into nine for the Royals.

Forced to punt from their own end zone, the Giants snapped the ball over their punter’s head and out the back of the end zone for a safety. On the ensuing free kick, the Royals’ returned it 71 yards for a touchdown to suddenly give the Royals a 23-7 lead with 1:39 left in the first half.

The momentum carried over into the second half. Even after LeSueur-Henderson marched all the way down the field looking to make a game of it, the Royals managed to get the ball back without allowing a point. The Giants had third-and-goal at the 2-yard-line and were stuffed for no gain, and a bad snap on fourth down turned the ball over to the Royals on downs after a 10-yard loss. That’s when Johnson’s two carries for 88 yards and touchdown essentially put the game out of reach.

Cole  joined Johnson with more than 100 yards on the day, finishing with 102 yards on 19 carries. Bushman had 39 yards on two carries, Jordan Berrios had 33 yards on six carries, Nick Parker ran five times for 16 yards and Cooper finished with 15 yards on four carries. Overall, the Royals racked up 332 yards on 46 attempts, a 7.2-yard average. The Royals attempted only four passes in the game, completing three of them for 40 yards.

“When you’re effective running the football, my thought is why bother passing?” Johnson said.

Hunter Hulley led the defense with 12 tackles and Ryne Alger added seven. Luke Sandquist had a sack, a fumble recovery and a blocked punt, and Mike Hetrick and Austin Hausladen each had half a sack.

The Royals will be back in action Friday night on the road against Sibley East. The Wolverines are 1-2, but Johnson doesn’t expect anything to come easy.

“They have big kids, and they’re physical,” Johnson said of a team coming off a loss to Belle Plaine. “It will be a good test. It’s going to be a completely different set of circumstances (than the last couple of offenses the Royals faced). They’re a bigger team, a more physical team, and they run the wishbone. They’re going to come out and try to run over us. Hopefully we can figure out a way to slow that down.

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