This week, the Rush City football team will receive a rare in-season treat: a Friday off.
The Tigers opened the season one week earlier than nearly all other high school team in Minnesota, so their reward will be a “bye” week after knocking off East Central 46-24 in its homecoming game on Friday, Sept. 27, at Andy Saloka Field.
Rush City quarterback Mitch Mell said he and his teammates are excited about having a Friday night off.
“We are probably going to watch some other games,” he said, then added with a wry grin, “If we don’t, we’ll do some responsible and respectful things.”
Mell and the offense probably spent the day after Friday’s victory soaking in an ice bath after battering the Eagles for 369 rushing yards and seven touchdowns to improve to 5-1 overall and 3-1 in Northeast Silver district games.
The win clinched the Tigers’ first winning season since 2016, but co-coach Joe Lattimore said that was not his team’s focus.
“We don’t worry about having a winning record for the season,” he said. “We just want to be 1-0 each week. If we can do that, we’ll be fine.”
The key to the Rush City victory over the Eagles was a fast start in which the Tigers scored on their first three possessions to lead 20-0 after one quarter.
Anthony Hermanson had a 6-yard TD run to open the contest, and Zeth Hahn scored the first two of his five touchdowns on the night with runs of 26 and 1 yard before the quarter ended.
“We had a fast start, and after that it became a little bit of a battle,” Lattimore said. “When we play East Central, nothing is easy and nothing is free. But when we got out ahead early, we were able to do some good things and go score-for-score with them.
“Having that two-touchdown cushion made it easier on us. We figured that, if we could match their scores, it would be OK.”
While East Central scored four touchdowns in the contest, Rush City was able to answer each of those scores with a TD of their own.
“I think we relaxed a little bit – we shouldn’t have, but we did,” Mell admitted. “But we had a cushion, and we took advantage of that.”
Hahn did the bulk of the running, finishing with 213 rushing yards on 20 carries. He had scoring runs of 48 and 36 yards in the second quarter and a 10-yard TD dash in the third.
Hunter Sykes had 86 yards on 11 carries, while Hermanson added 66 yards on 13 carries, including a second touchdown on a 1-yard plunge in the final period.
“We knew that our offensive line had a size and strength advantage over them,” Mell said. “We thought that if we punched them in the mouth right away we could have the advantage over them – and we did.
“Our offensive line doesn’t get the credit it deserves. We couldn’t do anything without them.”
Rush City did a fine job of stuffing East Central’s run game, which netted just 59 yards on 29 carries. But the Eagles flew to 161 passing yards and three touchdowns as quarterback Brody Lindstrom, who completed 9-of-13 passes in the contest, connected with three different receivers for scoring strikes.
Defensively, Daniel Mielke led Rush City with 8.5 tackles, including seven solo stops; he had three sacks and two other tackles for loss. Mason Nahl finished with five solo tackles and four assists, while Jaiden Koecher and Mell each had six solo tackles in the win.
So this Friday the Tigers will enjoy a “bye” week, something Lattimore said would be a welcome break.
“We’ve been at this since the first week of August because we had the Week Zero game,” he said. “So this week we’re going to give them a couple days off to rest and recover. We started with three road games that saw us travel 900 miles round-trip, so it’s been a grind. …
“October is a tough month, especially at the end with that Friday-Wednesday-Tuesday grind – there’s a lot of games in a short time. It will be nice to have the week off.”
Lattimore said he does not worry about getting out of the rhythm that a football schedule provides.
“I think it will be good for us,” he said. “We’ll look at Barnum a little bit next week, and we may look at Deer River – our last game – a little bit. But it will nice to get a little time off.”
Braham rolls in the Woods
Also in week five, Braham piled up 475 yards and seven touchdowns in a 52-8 road rout of North Woods.
The Bombers’ balanced offense collected 290 yards rushing as Luke Bendickson scored two touchdowns while both Carson Shockman and A.J. Beckman added a TD. Meanwhile quarterback Hayden Lee threw for 184 yards and three touchdowns to Reed Riesing.
Each of the three TD passes from Lee to Riesing was for 31 yards.
Braham improved to 4-1 overall and 3-1 in Northeast – Silver Division contests.
Lee completed the first of his three 31-yard scoring strikes to Riesing less than two minutes into the contest, and Bendickson added a 1-yard TD plunge midway through the first quarter.
Shockman, who led the Bombers with 128 rushing yards on 13 carries, scored on a 23-yard run midway through the second quarter. Then Lee hooked up with Riesing for the second and third 31-yard scoring strikes to give Braham a 38-0 halftime advantage.
Riesing finished with five catches in the game for 135 yards.
Bendickson, who carried the ball 12 times for 82 yards, scored on a 5-yard run for the only points of the third quarter.
North Woods spoiled the potential shutout when T.J. Chiabotti scored on a 90-yard run with 4:05 left in the contest, and Braham’s A.J. Beckman scored on a 2-yard run with 48 seconds left to close the scoring.
North Woods finished with just 190 yards of total offense, including just 9 yards passing.
Bendickson led the Bomber defense with five solo tackles, while Josh Klingensmith and Jack Carlson each had four solo and two assisted stops. Defensive lineman Austin Sterling had 1.5 tackles for loss among his four tackles in the game.