Mendota’s Wyatt Martinson tries to break out of the grip of Richmond-Burton’s Daniel Rygiel on Sept. 27 at Richmond. (Reporter photo)
RICHMOND – When one football team runs nearly twice as many offensive plays as the opposition, the logical conclusion would be a lopsided final score. The play differential was heavily in favor of Richmond-Burton over Mendota, but the final score wasn't.
Despite the Trojan defense getting very little relief, Mendota managed to hang tough with the Rockets before finally succumbing, 27-20, in a Big Northern crossover game on Sept. 27 at Richmond.
The loss was Mendota's third straight after opening the season with two wins, while Richmond-Burton climbed to 3-2.
The final statistics showed Richmond-Burton putting the ball in play a whopping 65 times on offense. Compare that to 37 for the Trojans, and a separation of just seven points in the final score is truly amazing. And in the first half alone, Mendota's offense ran just nine plays from scrimmage while the Rockets had 39 in holding the ball for 20 of the 24 minutes.
“Defensively, we just didn't play well enough to win the ball game,” said a dejected Trojan coach Brock Sondgeroth. “When you don't get a lot of chances on offense, you tend to force things you normally wouldn't do.”
There really wasn't a huge difference in final total yardage either when realizing the number of plays each team ran. The Trojans finished with 238 yards (202 rushing) while Richmond-Burton had 334, all but 38 coming on the ground.
“Dominating the game’s possession is always our objective,” R-B coach Pat Elder said. “This is probably the best game our offensive line has played so far. I thought those guys really improved this week and did well.”
The Rockets began their assault on their first drive of the night when they marched 78 yards to score the game's first touchdown. Daniel Rygiel did the honors when he punched it in from 4 yards out, followed by a Sergio Hernandez extra-point kick to make it 7-0. Richmond-Burton used up more than half of the first-quarter clock and converted a crucial fourth-and-seven play during the drive.
Mendota's first offensive series of the night resulted in a turnover when Shane Kruse lost the handle on the ball and it was recovered by Richmond-Burton's Kory Klicker at the Rocket 40-yard line. The Rockets were able to capitalize on Mendota's miscue when they covered the 60 yards, capped off by a 9-yard TD run by Bradley Boelkow at the 11:14 mark of the second quarter. Hernandez's extra-point kick gave the home team a 14-0 lead.
But the Trojans got right back in the game in rapid fashion when they began the ensuing possession at the Richmond-Burton 45 and needed one play – a 45-yard bolt to the end zone by Wyatt Martinson – to cut the deficit in half. Ryan Reeder banged home the extra-point kick to make it 14-7.
Richmond-Burton was able to add to its offensive play disparity and in the process wear down the Trojan defense when it took the next drive at its own 25 with 10:49 showing on the clock and managed to drive the 75 yards in just over 10 minutes. The final play was a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Boelkow with just 34 seconds showing on the first-half clock. The Rockets tried for two on the conversion and the pass attempt was incomplete.
Mendota had one more chance to score in the final half-minute when it moved from its own 36 to the Richmond-Burton 32, but a 49-yard field goal attempt by Reeder was just a bit short and off to the right and that's the way the half ended.
The Trojans desperately needed to string together a sustained offensive series and put some points on the board when they received the second-half kickoff, and they were able to do just that. Starting at its own 38, Mendota got a 32-yard quarterback-keeper up the middle from Jake Buchanan on the first play of the drive to move the ball down to the Rocket 30-yard line. A penalty set the Trojans back where they faced a daunting second-and-25 play, but they used a nice 16-yard screen pass from Buchanan to Martinson to pick up part of the yardage, and then did the rest on the ground when Martinson completed the drive on a 2-yard TD run. Reeder booted the extra point and the Trojans trailed 20-14 with 6:19 to play in the third quarter.
R-B continued to chew up yardage and precious minutes off the clock on its next possession, one in which the Trojan defense needed to come up big, and it did. The Rockets moved the ball 36 yards and took five and a half minutes off the clock when they faced a fourth-and-four from the Mendota 24, but the Trojans stiffened and were able to hold R-B short of the first down.
Mendota couldn't generate anything on offense after the defensive stop, and Richmond-Burton quickly got the ball back at midfield. The Rockets advanced to the 29 where they executed a halfback option pass from Luke Brinkmann to Nicholas Hogan, who picked the ball out of the air despite some tight defense by Buchanan, and Brinkmann landed in the end zone for a TD. Rodriguez was good on the PAT kick with 9:08 left in the game.
The Trojans added one more score when they covered 68 yards in 12 plays, capped off by a 9-yard TD run by Buchanan, but Mendota needed five and a half minutes to complete the drive and only 3:35 remained in the contest. Trailing by seven, the Trojans lined up for a Reeder extra-point kick, but instead of kicking, he ran for the corner pylon trying to pick up two points and he was crushed by several R-B defenders 2 yards short of the goal line. While the Trojans didn't need the two points at that juncture, Sondgeroth explained that it was an audible call that turned a one-point try into a two-point attempt.
Despite having three timeouts left, the Trojans elected to try an onside kick and the ball failed to travel the necessary 10 yards, and Richmond-Burton took over at the Mendota 49. In choosing to onside kick, Sondgeroth said the coaching staff felt that was the Trojans' best chance to get the ball back instead of relying on the defense to make a stop.
The Rockets advanced the ball inside Mendota's 10-yard line, where on fourth down with 42 seconds left, they chose to try a 24-yard field goal, but Hernandez's attempt barely made it to the end zone.
Mendota's final play of the game was a pass by James Carroll that was intercepted by R-B's Rygiel near midfield.