Ridgewater caps season on high note

WILLMAR -- Victory heals most wounds but Ridgewater College quarterback Lance Bussler was leaving Hodapp Field on Saturday in some pain. Hamstring, ankle, ribs -- you name it -- it hurt. Bussler and his Warrior teammates had just outlasted Fergus...

WILLMAR -- Victory heals most wounds but Ridgewater College quarterback Lance Bussler was leaving Hodapp Field on Saturday in some pain.

Hamstring, ankle, ribs -- you name it -- it hurt.

Bussler and his Warrior teammates had just outlasted Fergus Falls 26-24 in a furious battle that belied each team's lowly record. The smacking and popping sounded more like it might be for the MCCC championship.

Instead, Fergus was desperate for its first win while Ridgewater wanted to end a fall of frustration on the up beat. The Spartans just missed -- a 27-yard field-goal attempt with 1:35 left in the fourth quarter drifted no more than a foot wide.

"It was about this close," said Warriors' linebacker Blake Hagert, holding his thumb and forefinger an inch apart.


The Warriors had to rally from a 14-0 deficit to get their second win and first in the South Division. The offense relied on the slicing runs of 200-pound Justin Laughlin. In 36 carries he logged 184 yards. His two short touchdown runs tied the score 14-all by the end of the first half.

"The line did a great job today. Credit them," said Laughlin, a sophomore who gained 1,800 yards in 2004 for Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg.

Sharing the burden up front around center Justin Olson were guards Ryan Kapsner and Travis Smith, tackles Mark Danielson and Andy Graupman and tight end Sam Plath.

Fergus put Ridgewater in a deep hole on a darting 32-yard run by Darren Edwards and 43-yard pitch-and-pass play that went from quarterback Bruce Jones to alternate quarterback Will Thammavongsa to wide receiver James Archibald.

Down 14-7, Ryan Ronan blocked a Fergus punt that Hagert corralled at the Spartans' one. Laughlin lunged for the touchdown and Bussler's kick tied it.

Ridgewater went up 20-14 on a Bussler pass to Dan Drexler, tip-toeing in the end zone, and later 26-17 on a one-yard sneak by Bussler, who carried 11 times for 31 hard-earned yards.

With just 6:06 left in the fourth quarter and Ridgewater's defense seemingly in control, two failed conversions seemed no matter.

But Craig Gaines cut back for a 74-yard TD run at 5:04, making it 26-24, and when Ridgewater fumbled the ball away a their own 19 with 3:48 left, it suddenly looked good for Fergus. On third and one at the 10, defensive tackle Ben Thonvold stopped Jones cold trying a keeper for the first down.


On fourth and a long one, place-kicker Bob Mandemaker came on. He'd kicked a 31-yarder earlier in the half; this one started right but he held his arms up in anticipation of the official call, but it was the Warriors' who celebrated a narrow miss.

"We wanted to win this one for the sophomores," said freshman Zack Kjolsing, who had a pair of 50-yard-plus kickoff returns in the second half.

The team celebrated at the south end zone, briefly raising first-year head coach Rob Baumgarn on their shoulders -- a much better ending than a year ago at Fergus Falls when a 43-yard field goal with no time left beat the Warriors 31-28.

Ridgewater 26, Fergus Falls 24

Fergus Falls (0-3, 0-8)..........................14 0 3 7 -- 24

Ridgewater (1-3, 2-7)............................0 14 6 6 -- 26

FF - Darren Edwards 32 run (Bob Mandemaker kick)

FF - James Archibald 42 pass from Will Thammavongsa (Mandemaker kick)


Rgw - Justin Laughlin 2 run (Lance Bussler kick)

Rgw - Laughlin 1 run (Bussler kick)

Rgw - Dan Drexler 10 pass from Bussler (kick fail)

FF - Mandemaker 31 field goal

Rgw - Bussler 1 run (kick fail)

FF - Craig Gaines 73 run (Mandemaker kick)

Fergus Falls

Team statistics


First downs: 10 ... Rushing: 26-218 ... Passing (com-att-yds-int.): 5-16-79-0 ... Fumbles lost: 2 ... Penalties: 7-65

Individual statistics

Rushing: Anthony Carpenter 6-29, Darren Edwards 11-88, Bruce Jones 8-16, Criag Gaines 3-86 ... Passing: Bruce Jones 4-12-33-0, Will Thammavongsa 1-4-25-1 ... Receiving: James Archibald 2-57, Jordan Stangler-Mayer 1-11, Dave St. Louis 3-30 ... Punting: Robert Mandemaker 1-25.0 ... Interceptions: Derron Forsythe, Vernon Lee ... Fumble recoveries: Tarean Smith, Jordan Pieper... Tackles (solo-assist): Lee 4-1, Smith 4-3, Korey Fry 4-3, Evan Boike 2-3, Pieper 2-2 ... QB sacks: none


Team statistics

First downs: 15 ... Rushing: 56-246 ... Passing (com-att-yds-int.): 7-13-79-1 ... Fumbles lost: 2 ... Penalties: 7-65

Individual statistics

Rushing: Lance Bussler 12-31, Justin Laughlin 36-184, Josh Wentzel 2-6, Zach Seibert 6-25 ... Passing: Bussler 7-13-79-1 ... Receiving: Jason Pawelk 1-5, Seibert 4-14, Dan Drexler 1-10, Josh Goebel 1-10... Punting: Drexler 1-22.0 ... Interceptions: none ... Fumble recoveries: Desmond Moody, Andrew Resick ... Tackles (solo-assist): Tyler Hoelscher 4-2, Joey Luz 5-4, Lee Fast 1-1, Ryan Ronan 4-1, Josh Wentzel 3-3, Bryan Beld 2-0, Blae Hagert 4-2, Ben Thonvold 3-2, Ross Brandt 3-2, Ted Geise 2-1, Kyle Homin 2-1, Andrew Resick 2-0, Desmond Moody 2-1 ... QB sacks: Fast

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