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Late-game defensive stop leads to NRHEG victory

WINTHROP — NRHEG hit the road Thursday night to take on Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop to try and stay unbeaten on the season.

It was a closely-contested battle from the opening kickoff.  The Panthers took a late lead in the fourth quarter and followed it up with a defensive stand inside their own five-yard line, hanging on for a 26-20 win.

Kordell Schlaak put the Panthers on the board just over five minutes into the first quarter. Schlaak completed a pass to Bo Budach who took the ball in for a 73-yard score. The extra point by Ben Schoenrock was no good.

Two minutes later, the Thunderbirds answered back with a deep touchdown of their own on a 47-yard pass. The two-point conversion to take the lead failed.

The lone score of the second quarter came by way of NRHEG running back Andrew Phillips, who rushed in for a two-yard touchdown with five seconds remaining in the half. Schoenrock connected on the PAT this time around.

The Panthers went to the halftime break with a 13-6 lead over the Thunderbirds.

NRHEG took a two-score lead with three minutes left in the third quarter when Schlaak, again, connected with Budachm this time for a 23-yard touchdown. Schoenrock made the PAT to make the score 20-6.

The Thunderbirds closed the gap in the final seconds of the quarter with another deep-pass touchdown. The two-point conversion attempt was converted this time to make the score 20-14 in favor of the Panthers.

With four minutes left in the game, the Thunderbirds tied the score at 20-20  after a 45-yard touchdown pass and a failed two-point conversion.

NRHEG marched right back down the field to take the lead back via a four-yard run from Phillips. The two-point conversion attempt from Schlaak to Jack Olson missed the mark.

The Thunderbirds threatened to score again on their next drive, but a stop at the five-yard line by the Panthers as time ran out gave them their second win of the season.

Schlaak was 13 of 22 with 241 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Philips led the team in rushing with 106 yards on 13 attempts and two touchdowns. Budach led in receiving with three catches for 122 yards and two touchdowns.

Defensively, the Panthers were led by Clay Stenzel, who had 12 solo tackles, two assisted tackles and one fumble recovery. Ralph Roesler also had a fumble recovery. Branden Howieson had an interception.

“A great game between two great teams,” said head coach Marc Kruger. “Our offense moved the ball and did what we needed to, and the defense was outstanding, stopping G-F-W on the five to end the game. Andrew Phillips had a great night running the ball, Bo Budach was a top wide receiver and Clay Stenzel was a force on D and really came in huge.”

The Panthers move to 2-0 on the season and play again Friday when they take on the Knights of Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial at home.

About Tyler Julson

Tyler Julson covers sports for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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