For the first time in years, talk of a streak for the Watertown-Mayer football is a good thing, as the Royals move to 3-0 on the season after ditching the 29 game losing streak last year.
“It’s fantastic, it’s one of those things where you sit here and people are talking about our football team winning,” said coach Andrew Phillips. “When I took over, people were just hoping we’d be competitive, now we’re sitting here saying we can win, we can do the things that we talked about doing 4 years ago when I became head coach - building this program from within. These seniors were freshman, and for them to buy in and do everything we’ve asked has put us right where we want to be.”
After a 2-0 start to the season, the Royals were looking great. But as always, fear of a letdown game loomed in the background. Watertown-Mayer would be playing on a new turf field with a big new scoreboard in front of a full crowd for the first time in 2 years. Yet Phillips made sure to get the jitters of the completely new experience out of the way, having the players get used to the turf on Thursday and have them take in the atmosphere of the new stadium.
“I told them the day before, it’s Friday night lights, we’ve got to be ready to play,” Phillips said. “We can’t have the twinkle in our eyes blind us, and [we came to play tonight].”
Any thoughts of a letdown were quickly assuaged, as the Royals scored just a couple of plays into the game. The defense got an early stop and a blocked punt in the endzone put Watertown-Mayer up 6-0 over Albany. Except for one strong drive from the Huskies, it was all Watertown-Mayer from that point on as the Royals went on to win 32-8 to move to 3-0, with the defense forcing three fumbles and a second-half shutout.
“After we got the blocked punt in the endzone and got a touchdown, it was crazy from their, all electric,” said Tanner Burmeiester. “It’s the best feeling in the world, 3-0. The last time we put 32 points up here was 2014.”
Much like they started the game with a spark, the Royals kicked off the second half with a bang as well. Albert Rundell hit Connor Donovan over the middle and Donovan did the rest, racing down the sideline for a 68-yard score to put the Royals up 20-8. Add a pair of running touchdowns by Wyatt McCabe and one from Burmeiester and the Watertown-Mayer offense was too much to handle Friday night.
“We talk all the time that we have to take the game to the other team, we can’t let them bring the game to us,” said Phillips. “For us to come out and block a punt right away be up by a touchdown before our offense is even on the field sets a huge tone for this game. You come out in the second half and score a long touchdown right away - you could feel the air come out of them.”
With the Royals now at 3-0, they are reaping the rewards of their hard work. Phillips credits the players success in other sports during the Winter and Spring, and the players don’t stop when the Summer comes around.
“It’s all offseason work,” said McCabe. “All of us guys practice two times a week and are in the weight room and are just working hard and believing we can do it.”
The confidence is contagious and builds with each week. This time last year the Royals were winning their first game after 29 consecutive losses. Now they are celebrating a 3-0 start to the season.
“We go into games now and we have the mentality that we are going to win,” said Burmeiester. “We watch film and think, ‘Yeah, we’re better than this team.’ So when come out like this, it’s awesome. We all push each other in the weight room on the field. Practice is totally different than the last 3 years.”
The same attitude to push through adversity when losses were a regular occurrence has helped the Royals both on and off the field. A lot of the players donned their blue jerseys when wins were a far off dream. But persistence in life is mirrored on the field.
“When some of these guys joined the team, we hadn’t won a game in 2 years - we play in a super tough district, a super tough section - now they’re sitting here believing in themselves, they are believing in our team and its paying off,” said Phillips. “I tell them before every game that something is going to go wrong tonight - we’re going to have a turnover, we’re going to get called for a penalty, a touchdown is going to get called back. Something is going to happen and we’re going to have to fight through that adversity and they have been doing that for 2 years.”
Their efforts have been rewarded with three wins to start the season, as well as a night they will all remember – playing on a new field with a new scoreboard and a packed crowd.
“The atmosphere was great, it’s nice to have this big scoreboard and a huge fan section,” said McCabe. “We’re all back together. Last year we didn’t have a whole lot of fans [because of COVID-19], but to have all these guys back and having all that energy for every little thing is awesome.”