COLBY — It was run, run, run and run some more for Regis, and then just when Colby came up to stop the run, the Ramblers threw a pair of 60-plus yard touchdown passes to put the Hornets away in a 40-9 victory Friday night that should just about clinch the Western Cloverbelt title for the Ramblers for the second straight season.
“They lull you to sleep and then it’s a big play,” Colby coach Jim Hagen said.
Up 21-9 midway through the third, quarterback Bennett Seelen pitched to Aaron Haselwander who lateraled to Tristan Root on a double reverse. It looked like Root might cut upfield like the Ramblers had done all game, but this time he took a step back and let it fly, connecting with Gabe Chenal for a 66-yard score.
Colby got the ball back, but just two plays into the ensuing drive, Luke Rooney came up with an interception to set the Ramblers up at the Regis 38.
This time, Seelen did it himself. He took the snap, faked the handoff and connected with Root for a 62-yard touchdown to end any comeback hopes.
“Those passes were probably set up by our run game,” Regis coach Bryant Brenner said. “We thought we had an opportunity to maybe get a big play in the pass game.”
Once Brenner showed up in Colby and saw the field, he decided he wanted to pound the rock early.
“I thought the conditions weren’t favorable to throw the ball with how wet the field was,” Brenner said. “I wanted to see if we could run the ball on them and put it in our defense’s hands.”
The Ramblers did not attempt a pass in the first half.
Trailing by three in the first, Haselwander set the Ramblers up with great field position, returning Colby’s kickoff across midfield to the Colby 45.
That’s when the Ramblers got down to business running the ball. They got into trouble when a holding penalty and a false start backed them up to a daunting 1st and 25, but Hayden Reinders picked up a 22-yard gain and two plays later Gus Theisen punched in a 2-yard score.
Brenner opened up the second quarter with a bold decision. On fourth-and-two, backed up at the Regis 29, the Ramblers opted to go for it. Reinders took the pitch and cut up field but only mustered a yard.
Four plays later, the Hornets made Brenner pay, scoring from a yard out to make it 9-7.
The Hornets’ lead wouldn’t last long.
Punting from inside its 30, Colby had a chance to flip the field and pin the Ramblers back within their own zone. But Reinders had other ideas. He broke free of the Colby line and blocked the punt to set the Ramblers up at the Colby 37.
Regis went back to the run game again, biting off short-yardage gains before Reinders punched in a five-yard score to put the Ramblers up 14-9.
“You can’t simulate that in practice,” Hagen said. “There is no way with our scout team that we can simulate their size, their speed, their strength.”
The third quarter was all Ramblers.
Gus Theisen put Regis up 21-9 when he broke free for a 70-yard touchdown run.
After Regis’ two big passing plays, Root connected on a 45-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to wrap up the night’s scoring.
“I’m really proud of these kids,” Brenner said. “It’s a difficult place to play.”
Brenner was emotional after addressing his team.
“We love these guys and how much they put into it,” Brenner said of his team.” They really care about what they’re doing.”
The victory keeps Regis undefeated and moves the Ramblers into sole possession of first place in the Western Cloverbelt with two games to go in the season. Brenner’s team will have to avoid upsets against Spencer/Columbus Catholic at home on Thursday and against Neillsville/Granton on October 17 if it’s going to clinch the conference title. But the veteran coach didn’t seem worried about a slipup from his squad.
“I think our process and our team and our rhythm every week will take care of that,” Brenner said. “These kids are led by a great group of seniors and they’ll make sure we don’t overlook anyone.… I’m not too concerned about that.”