By Bruce Strand
The Rogers Royals broke up passes in the end zone on the final two plays and handed Monticello its first loss, 10-7, Friday evening at the Magic’s homecoming.
The Royals bounced back from their own first loss, against St. Michael-Albertville, and emerged in a three-way tie for the Mississippi 8 lead.
Monticello drove to the 12-yard line in the final minute and had quarterback Mike Bonk go for the TD twice, passing up a 29-yard field goal try on the final play.
With the Royals needing their defensive backs to keep the Magic out of the end zone, Levi Simpson of Rogers broke up a fade pass, and Reid Sagehorn stepped in front of a receiver to scuttle the last attempt.
“I’m still shaking. That was a nail-biter,” said Rogers coach Marc Franz. “Our defense made a number of big plays. It was a very emotional game. Monticello is big and physical, and they were unbeaten, and this was their homecoming.”
The Royals led 10-0 at the half on a 47-yard field goal by Isaac Aanerud and three-yard run by Nate Weber.
Aanerud hit another field goal that was negated by a penalty, after which the Magic blocked his second attempt. Aanerud also missed a long attempt earlier.
Rogers stopped Monticello on fourth-down plays twice in Royal territory — one of them after getting a punt blocked — and held their 10-0 lead until the fourth quarter.
Birk Olson raced 37 yards for Monticello’s touchdown on an option pitch play, getting around the edge and down the sideline.
“Monticello has the Olson brothers in the backfield, who are big and physical but they have breakaway speed, too, if they get open,” said Franz.
The Magic, down 10-7, forced a Rogers punt and got the ball back for the final drive that stalled dramatically at the 12-yard line.
Franz praised both the offensive and defensive lines for stout performances, citing defensive end Nate Hajder especially for pressuring the quarterback.
Rogers rushed for 177 yards while Henderson passed for 67.
Montciello was averaging 266 yards rushing coming into the game, and got only about half that against Rogers. Bonk passed for 111 yards.
The Royals, who’ve won three straight Mississippi 8 titles (the first of those was shared), are 3-1 in conference, same as Monticello, with Cambridge-Isanti 2-1. (All three are 4-1 overall.)
STMA, after beating Rogers 28-14 last week, fell to Buffalo 15-13 Friday. They’re 2-2 in conference.
About his team’s bounce-back win, Franz said, “We always learn from a loss. We had a good week of practice. I loved the kids attitude.”
Next week, it’s homecoming for Rogers, against Duluth Denfeld.