Rogers’ opened the program’s 18th season by getting revenge on long-time rival Elk River. The Royals (1-0, 1-0) defeated the Elks (0-1, 0-1) 28-12 on Friday, Oct. 9 at Jerry Schempf Field at Elk River High School. It was the first game between the two teams at Jerry Schempf Field since Oct. 5, 2018 when Elk River beat Rogers 50-34. The Royals lost to the Elks in the 2019 Section 6-5A semifinal 20-14 on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019 after beating Elk River 40-36 on Oct. 16, 2019.

Elk River’s Team 129 lost its first season opener since losing to 56-17 to Eden Prairie to open the 2013 football season on Aug. 29, 2013. It was the Royals’ first season-opening win since 2016 when the Rogers beat Sartell-St. Stephen 17-14 on Sept. 2, 2016.

Rogers head coach Marc Franz said the Royals’ win over the Elks was not just about revenge.

“It’s a good inner District [728] rivarly year in and year out,” Franz said. “It’s not like one game defines it. It’s a true rivalry that goes every single year. It’s a significant game every year for both teams. It’s fun to compete against them. Elk River year in and year out is one of the best-coached teams that we face. We know it’s going to be a battle for four quarters. It’s a very nice win to start the season.”

Rogers opened the scoring at 6:48 of the first quarter when senior quarterback Zach Evenson connected with junior wide receiver Owen Kanzler for a 39-yard touchdown reception. The extra point by junior kicker Dylan Honnoll was good, making it 7-0 Royals.

Elk River answered in the second quarter when senior running back Rahim Avery ran 81 yards for his first touchdown of the season, cutting Rogers’ lead to 7-6. The extra point by junior kicker Rylen Keoraj was good.

Royals senior running back Ben Dahl scored on an 18-yard run at 5:24 of the second quarter. The extra point made it 14-6 Rogers. 

The Elks responded again when sophomore quarterback Cade Osterman threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to senior running back Ryan Wilson to make it 14-13. A two-point conversion attempt by Avery was unsuccessful. 

Dahl scored another touchdown in the third quarter and another in the fourth, putting the game away for the Royals. Along with extra points, Rogers led 28-12 as the clock strock zero.

After the game, instead of the tradition postgame handshake in order to avoid possible contraction of COVID-19, the Royals and Elks tipped their hats and helmets to each other afterwards as a sign of respect.

Elk River head coach Steve Hamilton said he was surprised that it was a competitive game until the Royals broke free in the second half. 

“We are young and inexperienced and [had] less than two weeks of practice,” Hamilton said. “They have a bunch of seniors, especially up front. I anticipated that we would struggle to move the ball at all and maybe struggle to stop them. We walked away happy with where we’re at. We’ve got a lot of young guys that are going to gain a ton of experience and hopefully, we’re a lot better the next time we play them.”

Franz said it was one of the most interesting season openers in his 18 seasons since he became Rogers coach in 2003. 

“The dynamic of trying to sort through all of the changes of not having a football season and then suddenly having a change and then the rules evolving,” he said. “Let’s be honest. Football and social distancing don’t go hand in hand. Trying to find a way to make that work and keeping everyone as safe as possible is an ongoing challenge.

“You learn a little bit more every day and you try to control what you can and recognize that you’re not able to control everything and just go with it. It’s a unique year. It’s one nobody’s every going to forget but everyone is also hoping that this pandemic is over with as soon as possible.”

Offensive Player of the Game

Dahl had three touchdowns and ran for 81 yards, averaging 5.8 yards on 14 carries. It was his first-multi touchdown game since Oct. 16, 2019 when he scored twice against Elk River in the Royals’ 40-36 win over the Elks.

Franz said that Rogers’ offensive line should get some of the credit for Dahl’s success.

“He had a very experienced offensive line in front of him blocking [him],” Franz said. “He’d be the first one to give credit to his linemen. Obviously, Ben’s a good football player, but it always starts with the offensive line in front of him.”

Defensive Player of the Game

Elks senior defensive lineman Emmanuel Tarplah had one sack. 

What’s Next

Rogers was scheduled to host Buffalo (0-1, 0-0) in its home opener on Thursday, Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. at Rogers High School. The Royals defeated the Bison in their most recent game 42-14 on Sept. 20, 2019 at Buffalo High School. 

Franz said Rogers knows little about Buffalo. The Bison have a new head coach this season: Craig Lachowitzer. Lachowitzer replaced Gerard Rohl as head coach. Rohl was coach from 1992-2019.

“Whenever a new coach gets hired, they bring in their own schemes and systems,” Franz said. “We haven’t watched any film on them yet, but they’re a 6A school. They’ve been very talented on offense in the past, so we expect it to be a fun, competitive game.”

Elk River was scheduled to conclude its two-game homestand against Andover (1-0, 0-0) on Thursday, Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. at Elk River High School. The Elks defeated the Huskies 34-28 in their most recent game on Sept. 20, 2019 at Andover High School. 

Hamilton said Thursday’s game will be tough because it will have been only six days since Elk River played Rogers.

“For us, it’s every day, get better, get a little more experienced and make sure we’ve got guys in the right places and keep getting that experience,” he said. “This year, unlike any other, we’re really happy with any games that we’re going to be able to play. Hopefully, we get a whole season, but yesterday [Oct. 9], three teams had to cancel their games, so we’re hoping we stay lucky and that all these kids get to play and try to have fun and for the young guys to get experience for next year.”

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