Watertown-Mayer crashed Norwood Young America’s homecoming party last week, holding on for a 28-21 win at Ed Braun Field in Norwood Young America in a Minnesota River Conference matchup.
One year after Watertown-Mayer struggled in two matchups against the last-place Raiders — including a first-round playoff loss — things got off to a slow start once again for the Royals against the winless Raiders. NYA scored on its opening possession and led 14-7 after the first quarter as the Royals once again struggled to figure the Raiders out
The Royals, however, responded with 21 unanswered points — including an interception that led to a touchdown in the final minute of the first half -to give them their first lead — and survived a late comeback attempt by the Raiders.
“I was worried about our kids coming in,” Watertown-Mayer coach Craig Johnson said. “No. 1, because Norwood plays us tough all the time. No. 2, we have our homecoming and TCU next week, and it would have been that trap game for us. We knew Norwood would be jacked up for their homecoming, and they’d want to get that win. I’m just thankful we were able to hang in there.”
Trailing 14-7 after one quarter, the Royals tied the game at 14-14 on a 13-yard run by Jordan Berrios with just over 2 minutes left in the first half. Then, an interception on the Raiders ensuing possession ended up dramatically shifting the momentum to the Royals’ sideline heading into halftime.
On the first play after the turnover, Royals quarterback Brett Johnson — who had also intercepted the pass on the previous play — found Hunter Hulley in the middle of the field for a reception. Hulley then did the rest himself, taking it to the end zone on a 68-yard scoring play to give his team a 21-14 halftime lead.
Watertown-Mayer then tacked on another touchdown on a 1-yard run by Logan Cooper on its first possession of the third quarter, pushing the lead to 28-14.
NYA added a 15-yard Noah Peterson touchdown run early in the fourth quarter to cut the gap to 28-21, but never seriously threatened the rest of the way. An Aaron Sweeney interception on the Raiders’ final drive — the Royals’ third interception of the game — killed the Raiders’ hopes.
“I think we got just enough offense and just enough defense to win,” Johnson said. “I give (NYA coach) Paul Henn and his staff credit because every time we play them, maybe on paper we should have dominated a little bit more, but they play well. He does a great job with them. He forces us to do things we don’t want to do. His no huddle offense was the ticket for him tonight. They got the play calls they needed against our particular defense.”
Still, the Raiders came up a bit short, leaving Henn and his team still seeking their first win of the season.
“The kids played very hard and took a big step forward,” Henn said. “We need to iron out some things yet, but I felt as though we are moving in the right direction.”
Friday’s game appeared headed for a high-scoring affair early as both offenses put together long scoring drives. NYA scored on its first possession as Alex Eichner caught a 4-yard pass from quarterback Isaac Hormann. However, Watertown-Mayer answered with its own scoring drive, capped off by a Hulley 17-yard touchdown reception, his first of two on the day.
The Raiders took their 14-7 lead when Hormann caught a pass from Peterson on a trick play, but the Royals took control from there, scoring the next 21 points.
Johnson led the Royals with 110 rushing yards on 20 carries, and he also completed 6 of 10 passes for 156 yards and two scores, easily the Royals’ best passing output of the season.
“One of the things I told the kids coming in is we had to get a better rhythm in our passing game,” Craig Johnson said. “We’d been running the ball almost exclusively. Sometimes we’d only run the ball one or two times. … (Brett Johnson) showed good patience in the pocket on a couple of occasions and delivered the ball where he needed to.”
Jesse Bushman added 58 yards on just six carries for Watertown-Mayer, and Berrios had 38 yards on nine carries. Hulley had 112 yards on four catches and Luke Sandquist had 44 yards on two catches.
Casey Clemensen led Central receivers with five catches for 66 yards and Hormann completed 10-of-15 passes for 145 yards along with two touchdowns and three interceptions.
Watertown-Mayer (4-1) will host its homecoming game next week against Tri-City United (5-0), which defeated Sibley East, 47-6 last Friday.
“They are going to be big and physical,” Johnson said. “We’re not a real big team, so we struggle a little bit with the physicality of these teams. We struggled last week against Sibley East, a big physical team. We beat (TCU) pretty badly on their home field, 35-7, for their homecoming (last year). Believe me, coach (Ken) Helland and the gang remember that, and they’re going to be using that as motivation for payback. We will have to hit on all aspects of our game.”
Royals 28, Central 21
WM 7 14 7 0 – 28
NYA 7 7 0 7 – 7
NYA — Alex Eichner 4 pass from Isaac Hormann (Zach Schnabel kick), 7:30
WM — Hunter Hulley 17 pass from Brett Johnson (Jesse Bushman kick), 2:31
NYA — Hormann 4 pass from Noah Peterson (Schnabel kick), 10:17
WM — Jordan Berrios 13 run (Bushman kick) 2:14
WM — Hulley 68 pass from Johnson (Bushman kick), 25.5
WM — Logan Cooper 1 run (Bushman kick), 7:26
NYA — Casey Clemensen 16 pass from Hormann (Schnabel kick), 10:22
Rushing – WM: Brett Johnson 20-110; Jesse Bushman 6-58; Jordan Berrios 9-38, TD; Logan Cooper 5-16, TD; Cole Durand 1-3; NYA: Noah Peterson 30-179, Zach Storms 2-7
Passing – WM: Johnson 6-10-0-156, 2 TD; NYA: Isaac Hormann 10-15-3-145, 2 TD; Noah Peterson 1-1-0-4, 1 TD
Receiving – WM: Hunter Hulley 4-112, 2TD; Luke Sandquist 2-44; NYA: Casey Clemensen 5-66, Brice Panning 1-40, Alex Eichner 2-24, Zach Storms 1-12, Noah Peterson 1-3
Tackles — Cooper 10, Andrew Ziegenhagen 8, Ryne Alger 4, Aaron Sweeney 4, Jesse Bushman 4, Nate Zellmann 4, Cody Wagner 3, Jack Nolan 3, Luke Sandquist 3; Trae Berhow 2, Bill Stauffer 2, Hulley 2, Cam Killian, Nick Parker, Jordan Berrios, Matt Pysick, Nathan Dressel
TFL — Sandquist
Sacks — Sandquist
Interceptions — Johnson, Sweeney, Bushman
— Matt Bunke contributed to this report