Football ends season in second round of playoffs

Chad Smith

The Rushford-Peterson football season came to an end in the second round of the district playoffs after a 34-18 loss at home to the Goodhue Wildcats on Saturday, Oct. 28. The Trojans fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter and 20-0 at the half before they outscored the Wildcats 18-14 in the second half. However, the Trojans couldn’t overcome the 20-point deficit and finished the season at 7-3.

Trojans’ coach Davin Thompson said Goodhue was a tough offense to defend against because they’ll throw a little bit of everything at you. “They’ll run the ball at you out of a wishbone offense,” he said. “They’ll also throw out of the spread offense, but what they’re really good at is taking the air out of the football and using the whole play clock.”

Goodhue had the ball first and the R-P defense forced a punt on the Wildcats’ first possession. The Trojans then ran the ball on their first two plays before running an option play on third down. An unfortunate fumble and favorable bounce into the hands of a Goodhue defender led to a return for the first touchdown of the game.

“The kids seemed to get down a little after that, but they continued to fight hard,” Thompson recalled. “I told the kids we won the second half (18-14); it just wasn’t by the total we needed.

“Peyton Morrison ended up getting hurt on the kickoff after that first touchdown by Goodhue, so that put us down one of our best receivers and linebackers right away in the first quarter,” he added. “That didn’t help the morale either, but the kids still hung in there and battled all the way. The second half was fun to watch. We just couldn’t get off the field on third down.”

The Wildcat offense controlled the clock by running 62 plays for 314 yards of total offense. By way of comparison, R-P had just 39 total plays for 162 yards of offense. The Trojans running game was quiet, due in large part to the Wildcat defense. Trojans’ leading rusher Triton Meldahl had 21 rushes for 80 yards. However, a net -42 yards in losses dragged his net rushing number down to 38 yards on the ground.

Malachai Bunke carried most of the R-P offense, scoring all three of the team’s touchdowns. Bunke completed nine of 16 passes for 120 yards and two TD tosses, as well as rushing the ball two times for a net seven yards and a TD run. Kobe Lind, who’d been struggling with a sore shoulder, caught both of Bunke’s TD passes and finished with five receptions for 90 yards, including a long 65-yard bomb.

Logan Ferguson led the Wildcat ground game with 27 and 81 yards, scoring twice. As a team, Goodhue ran the ball a total of 49 times for 195 yards (3.98 yards per rush). Quarterback Sam Opsahl completed eight of 13 passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns.

Defensively, Halen Schwendinger had a monster game for the Trojans, leading the team with a season-high 20 tackles.

Now that Thompson and the coaches have had a couple of days to look back at the season which began with a young team, the kids showed a lot of improvement as the fall progressed. “We were a lot better football team on Saturday than the team that lost to Blooming Prairie in the season opener,” he recalled. “This group of seniors is one of the first bunch of kids we had as we took over youth football. That group has come a long way.

“If I remember correctly, they won one game that year down in Spring Grove for the annual ‘Uff Da Bowl,’” he said. “Those kids have grown a lot as players and people from that day. To go from a one-win team in sixth grade to 7-3 as seniors, I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

The Trojans are saying goodbye to a group of seniors who made significant contributions that didn’t always show up in the stat sheets. That group includes top rusher Triton Meldahl, Peyton Morrison, Cody Paulson, Halen Schwendinger, Brett Betthauser, Gunner Mierau, Tim Highum, Sam Kingsley, and Vinnie Mason.

The Wildcats move on to face top seed Blooming Prairie in the next round on Friday, Nov. 1, in Dodge Center.