Entering last Friday night’s Section 2AAA football final, host Glencoe-Silver Lake was the state’s No. 2 ranked team, and Watertown-Mayer was No. 3.
It didn’t take long, though, for Glencoe-Silver Lake to show that there was a big difference between No. 2 and No. 3. The Panthers rolled to a 27-0 halftime lead and eventually turned the quick start in a 33-0 win over the Royals, and their first trip to the state tournament since 2010.
The state berth is the Panthers’ 10th since 2000, and follows a string of nine consecutive berths between 2002 and 2010. Watertown-Mayer coach Craig Johnson says he told his team there’s no shame in losing to a perennial state powerhouse like Glencoe-Silver Lake.
“We should be disappointed we lost the game,” Johnson said, “but I’m not disappointed in them, or the coaches, or anything. I thought we prepared well, and I thought the kids prepared well. We just got beat by a better football team. They’re bigger, faster and stronger. Sometimes you just have to swallow your pride and say, we got beat by the better football team.”
Despite Glencoe-Silver Lake’s physical dominance from the start, the Royals managed to keep the game close in the first quarter, holding the Panthers to a single touchdown through 12 minutes. That score came on a 4-yard run from Jake Stuedemann on the Panthers’ first possession, with 7:49 left to play in the first quarter.
The Royals forced a three-and-out on the Panthers’ next possession though, and showed a glimpse of hope when Brett Johnson hooked up with Luke Sandquist on a 45-yard pass on third-and-12, giving the Royals a first down at the Glencoe-Silver Lake 37-yard-line. However, the Royals lost five yards on their next two runs and threw an incomplete pass on third down before punting back to the Panthers.
Starting at their own 15, GSL mounted a 10-play, 85-yard touchdown drive that was capped by a 29-yard touchdown run from Colton Lueders, giving GSL a 13-0 lead.
From there, Watertown-Mayer failed to pick up another first down the rest of the half, going three-and-out three times. GSL, meanwhile, added a 1-yard touchdown run and a 42-yard touchdown run, both from Stuedemann, to take a 27-0 lead going into halftime.
Stuedemann added a 17-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, his fourth of the game, to cement the victory for the Panthers.
“They’re well-coached, they have great tradition and they have some great players,” Johnson said of the Panthers. “I’ll be surprised if somebody can beat them for the 3A championship this year.”
The Panthers held a Watertown-Mayer team that averages more than 300-yards of offense to 88 yards on the night, 45 of which came on one play. However, negative yardage on some sacks partially accounted for the low total.
As a team, the Royals had minus-2 rushing yards, and were led by six apiece from Logan Cooper and Jesse Bushman. Hunter Hulley had four catches for 45 yards, and Sandquist had the one catch for 45. Brett Johnson was 5-for-15 passing for 90 yards.
Andrew Ziegenhagen led the defense with 15 tackles, while Bushman had 14. Sandquist had two sacks and a tackle for a loss, and Aaron Sweeney had two tackles for a loss.
Coach Johnson said the loss shouldn’t put a damper on a season that ended with an 8-2 overall record, including a seven-game winning streak and a share of the Minnesota River Conference title.
“I think the major thing that sticks out with me and this football team is the resiliency,” Johnson said. “We had some tough injuries early, and we lost the second game of the year. We were behind in some games, but we came back. These kids found a way to be successful time and time again. I think it’s because they’re such a close knit team.”
Contact Matt Bunke at [email protected]