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Explosive offense leads Panthers to victory
August 30, 2019

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Keith Vetsch was determined to ruin Nedrose's home opener.

Rugby's senior running back scored three touchdowns in the Panthers' 32-8 win over the Cardinals in an out-of-region matchup in Minot.

Friday's win was the first step in Rugby's bid for a second consecutive playoff berth. Vetsch quickly gave credit to his teammates for the victory.

"It's great to see how everyone is trying so hard," he said. "We're determined to make the playoffs again, and we want to show everyone what we can do."

The Panthers struck early and often, scoring 16 points in the first quarter. Vetsch rushed for his first two touchdowns in the period.

Rugby converted both of their two-point conversion attempts after the respective 4-yard and 14-yard touchdowns. Senior quarterback Jaden Hamilton punched in the first conversion, and Vetsch caught the second.

The visitors struck again in the second quarter, stifling the Cardinals in their own end zone. Rugby led 18-0 after the safety, and the score held heading into the half.

"I was really impressed defensively," Rugby co-head coach Travis Risovi said. "I thought we were pretty aggressive. Obviously, there are things after the first game where you have to go back to the drawing board and work on."

The scoring did not end there, as Rugby started the third quarter with a bang. Hamilton completed a 14-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Corey Mattern, then tossed a two-point conversion to senior wide receiver Cody Jundt.

Nedrose couldn't create significant offensive drives before Vetsch scampered up the right side for a 21-yard touchdown, his third on the night. The two-point conversion failed.

"We had to play as a team," Vetsch said. "If we play as a team, we can be pretty good. We can do whatever we want to do."

The Cardinals' first points came via special teams. Sophomore Cameron Bailey took an 80-yard kickoff return back to the house, and junior quarterback Ethan Miller found senior receiver Jethro Lauron for the two-point conversion.

Neither team found paydirt in the fourth quarter, and Rugby earned the 32-8 victory in the schools' first-ever meeting. Efficient offense helped the Panthers earn a wire-to-wire victory.

"We can't give up big plays," Nedrose head coach Tommy Weidler said. "We gave up too many big plays today. We just didn't execute up front and we didn't tackle very well. We're getting to the guy and we are stopping our feet. We're not running our feet."

Penalties also plagued the Cardinals all night. Weidler said his team made too many mental mistakes.

"There were a lot of times where we shot ourselves and stopped our own drive," he said. "We have a lot of young guys that played a lot of snaps. You could tell that they are young. We learned that we should probably be a little more physical up front."

Rugby will host Des Lacs-Burlington next Friday, while Nedrose will travel to Bottineau. Both games will start at 7 p.m.

"It's a good start," Risovi said. "This program has been building here over the last few years. We're expecting big things out of them this year. This is the right start."

Lafakis is a staff writer for the Minot Daily News.

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