Grant Gunderson made a leaping catch in the back of the end zone with 4:25 to play to lift Aberdeen Roncalli to a 19-18 win over Mobridge-Pollock at Tiger Stadium on Friday.
“It was a great catch,” said Mobridge-Pollock coach Dan Merkel. “He just got one toe in. We talk about how five plays can make the difference in game. We just didn’t make enough of those five plays to win the game.”
In a game that was a classic back-and-forth battle, the Tigers had taken an 18-12 lead with 6:35 left on a 10-yard, Caden Halsey to Reece Cerney touchdown pass. The Tigers drove 71 yards to take the lead. Key plays on the drive were an 11-yard run by Dylan Cerney, a 26-yard run by Nathan Bauer and a 22-yard catch by Michael Davis.
But on the ensuing kick, Roncalli quarterback Brady Morgen returned the ball all the way back to the Tiger 38-yard line, setting up the game-winning drive. The Cavaliers were facing second and seven from the 23 when Morgan lofted a pass toward Gustafson, who went high in the air to snare the ball and then somehow come down with his toe just inside the back line. Gavin Heier came on to kick the extra point, the deciding point in the game.
The Tigers had another chance, but did not get closer than the Roncalli 48-yard line. The Tigers were nearly in position to challenge the end zone, looking at a third-and-one with a little more than two minutes to go, but failed on two attempts to get the first down.
“We made some mistakes in the end,” said Merkel. “We’ll learn from them and move on.”
After the teams played to a 0-0 first quarter, Davis got behind two Roncalli defenders and Halsey threw a perfectly-placed ball that Davis caught at the one-yard line and crossed the goal for the game’s first points. The touchdown came after Isaac Olson forced and recovered a Roncalli fumble at the 36-yard line.
The Cavaliers answered with just 1:52 left before halftime when Morgan hit Andrew Buechler on a 50-yard catch and run.
The Tigers took the lead in the third quarter after Roncalli’s first possession. The Tigers stuffed the Cavaliers on a fourth and three at midfield when Jason Gerry hit Jaden Karts behind the line of scrimmage.
On the Tigers’ first snap, Bauer found a lane on the left side and scampered down the sideline for a 49-yard touchdown run.
A big part of the Tigers’ ability to add points was lost when kicker Tom Zott suffered a concussion at practice. As a result, the Tigers were forced to go for two and were unsuccessful on all three conversion attempts.
“Other than the PATs we played a pretty solid game,” said Merkel.
The Tigers ran for 210 yards while holding the Cavaliers to just 30 yards on 29 carries. Dylan Cerney ran for a game-high 137 yards. Bauer added 87. Halsey and Morgan had nearly identical games throwing the ball. Each quarterback was nine of 17. Halsey threw for 131 yards, while Morgan threw for 143. Davis and Reece Cerney were Halsey’s main targets. Davis had two catches for 56 yards and Cerney had four catches for 49 yards.
The Tigers had 13 first downs to just five for Roncalli, but the Tigers had nine penalties for 85 yards against the Cavaliers’ three for 25 yards.
“If we hadn’t had those penalties we might have scored one or two more touchdowns,” said Merkel.
He added that while losing yet another game to Roncalli was tough to swallow, in the grand scheme of things, “It’s just a loss,” said Merkel. “We have to learn from it and move on.”
The Tigers renew an old acquaintance on Friday when they travel to Ft. Pierre to square off against the Stanley County Buffaloes. Stanley County is 3-1 in its return to 11-man football. The Buffaloes have wins over Mt. Vernon/Plankinton (30-20), Wagner (20-14) and Custer (35-7). In their only loss, they were beaten 42-6 by Winner.
“This isn’t going to be easy,” said Merkel. “They’re going to be strong and physical, just like they were in the past.”
The Tigers and Buffaloes are playing for the 11th time, but the first time since 2010. The Buffaloes were 4-1 against Mobridge before the Tigers won in the regular season and the playoffs in 2007. That sparked a five-game Tiger win streak to make it Mobridge-Pollock six, Stanley County four in the all-time series.
Aberdeen Roncalli (3-1) 0 6 0 13- 19
Mobridge-Pollock (1-2) 0 6 6 6- 18
MP- Michael Davis 34 pass from Caden Halsey (conversion failed) 11:08
AR- Andrew Buechler 50 pass from Brady Morgan (conversion failed) 1:52
MP- Nathan Bauer 49 run (conversion failed) 9:38
AR- Morgan six run (conversion failed) 11:28
MP- Reece Cerney 10 pass from Halsey (conversion failed) 6:35
AR- Grant Gunderson 23 pass from Morgan (Gavin Heier kick) 4:25
Aberdeen Roncalli: Rushing 29-30 (Jaden Karst 17-37, Gabe Torbert 2-3, Morgan 10-(-10); Passing (Morgan 9-17-1-143); Receiving (Buechler 2-64, Gunderson 3-53, Hunter Hilton 2-14, Karst 2-6, Torbert 1-6); 5 first downs; 2 turnovers; penalties 3-25.
Mobridge-Pollock: Rushing 41-210 (Dylan Cerney 16-137, Bauer 14-87, Isaac Olson 3-2, Halsey 8-(-16); Passing (Halsey 9-17-0-131); Receiving (Davis 2-56, R. Cerney 4-49, Bauer 1-17, D. Cerney 2-9) 13 first downs; 1 turnover; penalties 9-85.