One loss can happen to anyone. Losing two consecutive games to the same opponent is frustrating. But three? Well, Rogers was simply not going to let that happen.
After losing two years in a row to intra-district rival Elk River, host Rogers looked like a team on a mission Saturday, routing the Elks 52-14 in the Class 5A, Section 6 semifinals.
“There was a ton of motivation to beat these guys,” senior running back/linebacker Nate Weber said. “My brother was a senior and he lost to them. I wasn’t going to do it in my senior year.”
Stopping Elk River’s wing power-T offense, with its fakes and deception, is not a simple task. Just ask Monticello, which gave up 69 points to the Elks in the quarterfinals. But the Royals had a plan. They stacked their defensive fronts with six and sometimes seven linemen, basically shutting down the middle of the field.
“That’s not our normal defense,” Royals coach Marc Franz said. “Elk River runs a unique offense where they really make you play assignment football. They are big and they are physical and they want to run right over you. We had to make special substitutions, get our defensive linemen in there.”
After giving up touchdowns on two of their first three possessions, Rogers shut down Elk River for the rest of the game. The Elks’ Denis Bardashevskiy, who entered the game with 1,733 yards rushing on the season, was held to 37 yards rushing, his lowest total of the year.
“They played smart football,” Bardashevskiy said. “They figured out our offense.’’
The Elks wish they could say the same.
While the defense was in shutdown mode, the Royals’ offense — the highest-scoring offense in Class 5A — was running at peak efficiency. Behind a fast and aggressive offensive line, junior Gunnar Bloom rushed nine times for 127 yards and three touchdowns in the first half as the Royals built a 24-14 lead.
They blew the game open with four third-quarter touchdowns — three by Weber and a fourth by Bloom, who finished with 231 yards on only 13 carries.
Weber, who had scored 14 touchdowns going into the game but didn’t carry the ball in the first half because he was needed on defense, scored on runs of 12, 29 and 49 yards but gave much of the credit to the unselfishness of Bloom.
“That actually was Gunnar’s idea,” Weber said. “We were running our jet-sweeps for success, so he talked to our offensive coordinator and said to run him one way and send me off the edge and that’s what we did.”