By Steve Pilz
SPENCER – Everything was set for Friday night’s Cloverbelt Conference championship game at Spencer’s Ted Fritsch Field.
Eau Claire Regis was undefeated at 7-0 and so were the hometown Rockets of Spencer/Columbus Catholic, and each team was ranked third in the state – Regis in Division 6 and the Rockets in D-5.
The slugfest never happened. The Ramblers stole whatever homecoming momentum S/C might have had right off the bat, and stunned the Rockets by the end of the day, taking home a 23-6 win and the league title.
The Ramblers wasted little time when Jack Nicolai grabbed the opening kickoff and returned it for about 50 yards to the Rockets 25. Eight plays later, Tristan Root put the ball in the end zone from the 2-yard line. The PAT was good and the Ramblers led 8-0 at the 8:09 mark.
Then the defenses took over.
The Rockets tried to use their speed to get outside of Regis, but to no avail. They tried a few passes, mostly screens, but the Regis defenders seemed to keep everything in front of them and the potent Rockets’ offense was held in check as the Ramblers took their eight-point lead into the half.
“They were very physical up front,” said S/C coach Jason Gorst. “They had a lot of kids play pretty hard and they outplayed us in a lot of ways. Credit to them. They outplayed us tonight and they deserved to win the game.”
The teams exchanged punts to open the third quarter but when the Rockets forced Regis to punt on their own 49, the Rockets were flagged for roughing the kicker. Regis capitalized, running just four plays from before Cade Osborn crashed in from the 10 for a 16-0 lead.
That swing of momentum put the Rockets up against an unfamiliar wall, but they showed their championship mettle by putting together a 10-play drive. Seniors Jarred Mandel and Carson Hildebrandt stepped up for the Rockets. Mandel ran it twice for 22 yards and Hildebrandt three times for 25 yards. Mandel hit fellow-senior Ethan Meece for 16 yards on fourth down to the 10, and Hildebrandt took it the rest of the way for the Rockets; first score of the night. Unfortunately for them, it was their last.
Early in the fourth, with the Rockets playing catch-up, Regis quarterback Isaac Michels hit Root with a 45-yard TD strike to account for the final score.
“I don’t think they really threw anything different at us,” Gorst said. “I think they were just more physical than us and us and they physically beat us.”
The Rockets wrap up their regular-season schedule next Friday, Oct. 12, when they travel to Altoona.
Ramblers 23, Rockets 6
Eau Claire Regis 8 0 8 7 – 23
Spencer/Columbus 0 0 6 0 – 6
R – Tristan Root 2 run (Jack Nicolai run), 8:09.
R – Cade Osborn 10 run (Root pass from Isaac Michels), 5:19.
S/C – Carson Hildebrandt 10 run (run failed), 0:44.
R – Root 45 pass from Michels (Nicolai kick), 9:51.
First Downs: Regis 12; Spencer/Columbus 13
Rushing (att.-yards): R 44-162; S/C 41-182.
Passing (comp.-att.-yards- int.): R 3-5-116-0; S/C 10-13-92-1.
Total yards: R 278; S/C 274.
Fumbles (total-lost): R 2-1; S/C 0-0.
Rushing: R, Andrew Ernstmeyer 11-54, Osborn 10-29, Jack Nicolai 4-25, Hayden Reinders 7-20, Tristan Root 4-18. S/C, Jarred Mandel 14-74, Hildebrandt 11-48, Austin Bacon 8-48, Eden Jacobson 3-8, Hayden Bauman 5-4.
Passing: R, Michels 3-4-116-0. S/C, Mandel 10-13-92-1.
Receiving: R, Root 2-86, Nicolai 1-30. S/C, Bauman 3-21, Ethan Meece 2-25, Bacon 2-15, Hildebrandt 2-9, Jacobson 1-22.
Interceptions (defense): R, Osborn.
Records: Regis 8-0, 7-0 Cloverbelt Conference; S/C- 7-1, 6-1 Cloverbelt Conference.
Steve Pilz writes for MarshfieldAreaSports.com, which is a contributor to focusonmarshfield.com.