ELROY – Last year the two teams played in conditions resulting from heavy rain throughout the week.
On Friday, the Royall and New Lisbon football teams were on the field as the damage was done.
With a playoff berth on the line for both teams, the Panthers hosted the Rockets for a game with an adjusted earlier start time in hopes of completing at least a majority of the game prior to the arrival of a significant storm.
“We started a half hour early just to try and get the game in,” New Lisbon coach Brad Bever said. “We knew the storm was coming and it did in the second quarter. It rained heavy for a while.”
The wet conditions played a role in both the start time and the final score. With a 12-12 tie in the third quarter, the Rockets were unable to handle the soaked football on a punt and the Panthers’ recovery was followed by the game-winning touchdown in an 18-12 decision. The victory gave Royall a 3-2 record in the Scenic Bluffs Conference and a likely playoff berth while the Rockets need a home win in Friday’s regular season finale to keep postseason hopes alive.
The Royall rushing attack totaled nearly 300 yards in the less-than-optimal field conditions, led by 163 yards and two touchdowns from Adrian Reneau. While the Panthers were effective in the run game, the Rockets relied on the pass to put points on the board.
The two teams exchanged touchdowns in the first quarter; Royall scoring on a 1-yard run followed by a failed 2-point conversion attempt while New Lisbon scored on a 29-yard pass from Gunnar Pedersen to Cody Haschke, also followed by a miss conversion to keep the score at 6-6 entering the second quarter, when both the rain and an unanswered touchdown arrived.
Reneau scored his first touchdown of the game on a 22-yard run to return the lead to Royall at 12-6, though the 2-point conversion again failed and left the Panthers with the six-point lead.
New Lisbon again tied the game, scoring a long-distance touchdown in the third quarter despite the poor conditions.
Pedersen connected with Zach Loew on an 81-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 12-12, though the Rockets continued the pattern of missed conversions that kept the score knotted.
That would change prior to the fourth quarter. The Panthers recovered the New Lisbon fumble on a punt return that gave them momentum and good field position to get the touchdown that ended as the game-winning score.
Reneau capped the scoring drive with a 16-yard touchdown run to put Royall ahead 18-12. While both teams entered the game with 2-2 marks in the conference, the Panthers (3-2, 4-4) assured themselves of at least an even in-conference record to help their playoff chances while the Rockets (2-3, 4-4) need a win over Hillsboro on Friday to possibly join Royall in the postseason.
“If we win on Friday, we should be in,” Bever said. “We’ve usually secured (a playoff spot) well before the last week of the season, but a .500 record in the conference usually means you’re in.”
Seth Brown had 102 rushing yards on 19 carries for Royall, along with 10 tackles and an interception on defense. Friedl also had 10 tackles. Robert Robinson led the New Lisbon defense with 13 tackles while Loew had an interception along with 103 total yards on offense. Pedersen finished 5-for-12 for 198 yards.
Royall concludes its regular season on Friday at Brookwood.