Renville Jaguars make some history
Renville County West earns its first state playoff berth with a 28-14 victory over Nicollet in the Section 2 9-Man title game
WACONIA — During its undefeated run through the regular season, Renville County West was held to a season-low offensive output during a 22-20 comeback victory against Nicollet.
Facing the same Raiders team in its biggest game of the season, the Jaguars didn’t get off to a fast start, but didn’t need to worry about fourth-quarter rally either.
With 20 second-half points and a stifling performance defensively, Renville County West made history Thursday night from Wildcat Stadium, as the program advanced to its first-ever state tournament following a 28-14 victory during the Section 2 9-Man final.
The football program was dropped just a few years ago. But after a miraculous turnaround campaign, the Jags have made it to the big dance.
“You can’t even explain this,” Jags head coach Ryan Hebrink said. “Right now, the emotions that are going through everybody’s minds and their hearts and the way that these guys have played, history was just made here at RCW and what a feeling that is.”
RCW, the No. 1 seed in the bracket, snagged three interceptions from Nicollet senior quarterback Jon Mans, two of which fell into the hands of junior defensive back Riley Ashburn, who picked off a pass late in the second quarter, and again in the fourth quarter to seal the two-score triumph.
RCW plays in the state quarterfinals at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8 at Buffalo High School. The Jaguars face the winner of Hancock and Brandon-Evansville. The Owls and B-E play for the Section 4 9-Man championship at 12:30 p.m. Friday at the Fargodome.
The Jaguars’ other interception was arguably the biggest moment of the game. With the top-seed clinging to a 14-6 advantage in the third quarter, the Raiders were positioned deep in opponent territory after RCW senior quarterback Jack Howard was picked off for the third time in the ball game.
However, with one outstanding effort, junior defensive back Brandan Hoberg regained the momentum when he got his hands on a Hans pass, bounced to the sidelines and evaded several tacklers on his way to a 80-yard house call.
“It just looked like it was coming right to me and it was just crazy,” Hoberg said. “I saw an open field and was just trying to run past everyone.”
After Mans trimmed the Jags’ cushion to 21-14 with a 1-yard run, Hoberg reached the end zone again after he caught a short out-pattern and took it 22 yards into the endzone. He began to stumble once he approached the goal line as both of his calves cramped up, but following a few moments on the turf, he walked to the sideline under his own power.
“It feels good,” Hoberg added. “It feels real exciting for it to be the first time to go to state in this school’s history.”
While RCW surpassed its season-low, the team was slow out of the gates thanks to field position and a pair of first-quarter picks from Raiders junior defensive back Nathan Duis. Two plays after Duis’ second interceptions, Hans found senior wide receiver Riley Hulke for a 10-yard touchdown reception to open the game’s scoring.
Nicollet looked like it would make multiple trips into the end zone after taking the opening drive down the Jags’ 4-yard line as several quarterback keepers resulted in big yardage. The defense held on, forcing a fourth-down incompletion.
“Sometimes we get backed in our own end zone, but we don’t break,” senior defensive end Tyler Rice said. “We just keep going and going with a next-play mentality. Bend, but don’t break.”
“Our defense won this game for us, especially that first quarter and the second quarter,” Hebrink said. “They played so well, made some huge stops for us and kept us in the game. ... A lot of emotions go into a game like this, a lot of decisions you’ve got to make, and our guys had some (plays) they’d like to take back. But all in all, they played hard and the defense played great.”
The defense forced three three-and-outs, earned an interception and made two of its fourth-down stops in the first half. On a fourth-and-long, Rice got an excellent jump off the line and sacked Hans. Two plays earlier, the senior defensive end clobbered Hans on a pressure that resulted in an incompletion.
Rice finished the night with two sacks and multiple other pressures on the quarterback. On the last time he made it home, he had company, as he and senior defensive end Zac Rice combined on the sack.
“It was a good performance,” Tyler Rice said. “I did my part ‘cause that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to do my job and everyone else is going to do theirs. I did my job and did my part and did it the best I could.”
RCW 28, Nicollet 14
Nicolet (9-1) 6 0 8 0 — 14
RCW (10-0) 0 8 13 7 — 28
N – Riley Hulke 10 pass from Jon Mans (pass failed)
R – Jaden Kolker 2 run (Zac Rice fumble recovery)
R – Conner Aalderks 49 pass from Jack Howard (kick failed)
R – Brandan Hoberg 80 interception return (Riley Ashburn kick)
N – J. Mans 1 run (J. Mans run)
R – Hoberg 22 pass from Howard (Ashburn kick)
First downs: 19 … Penalties: 8-52 … Rushing (Individual and team): J. Mans 22-94, Avery Northquest 10-50. Total: 32-144 … Passing (Individual and team): J. Mans 17-32-183-3 ... Receiving (Individual and team): Riley Hulke 8-103, Shane Stevensen 4-49, Logan Shay 3-27, Riley Mans 1-4 … Interceptions: No. 23 2, No. 21 1 … Fumble recoveries: 0 … Tackles (solo-assist): Nathan Duis 4-12, J. Mans 4-7, Norquist 0-9 … QB sacks: 0.
Renville County West
First downs: 14 … Penalties: 2-20 … Rushing (Individual and team): Kolker 19-57, Hoberg 8-34, Howard 7-16. Total: 34-107 … Passing (Individual and team): Howard 18-31-225-3 ... Receiving (Individual and team): Aalderks 7-77, Hoberg 4-58, Axel Zaragoza 1-33, Kolker 3-27, Ashburn 3-32 … Interceptions: Ashburn 2, Hoberg 1 … Fumble recoveries: 0 … Tackles (solo-assist): Kolker 3-7, Nate Schmidt 0-10, Ashburn 2-7, Hoberg 4-5, Dion Zentner 2 0-9, T. Rice 1-4, Zach Rice 0-4, Jake Haney 1-4, Zaragoza 1-4 … QB sacks: T. Rice 2, Haney 1, Hoberg 1.