Tested for the first time in weeks, the walls were beginning to close in on the Regis football team.
The Ramblers saw what had been a 15-point lead over Durand shrink to two early in the fourth quarter on Thursday. They were clinging to a 22-20 advantage after a blocked punt deep in Regis territory allowed the Panthers to steal momentum with a quick-strike score with just over 10 minutes left to play.
But with their backs to the wall, the Ramblers showed exactly why they’re the state’s top-ranked team. Regis answered with a five-minute, 11-play scoring drive to stretch the lead to nine, and Zander Rockow recovered a fumble on Durand’s ensuing possession to help clinch a 36-26 victory for the Ramblers at Carson Park.
“We had to go back to work, turn the page and respond,” Regis coach Bryant Brenner said of the long drive to put his team back in control. “The kids did a great job. That was a big turning point in the game. We really talk to our kids a lot about next-play mentality and not dwelling on the past. That drive was evidence of that.”
The victory put Regis (5-0, 3-0) in the driver’s seat in the race for the Cloverbelt Conference title. Both squads entered the matchup unbeaten and ranked in the latest Associated Press state poll — Regis No. 1 among small schools and Durand at No. 10.
After Durand (4-1, 2-1) blocked the Ramblers’ punt at Regis’ 5-yard line early in the fourth quarter, Simon Bauer took a 5-yard run in for a score to cut the lead to two. But Regis stopped the two-point conversion attempt, ensuring it would remain in the lead.
And when they got the ball back, the Ramblers seized momentum back with their lengthy march down the field. Gus Theisen ran in for a 9-yard touchdown to put Regis ahead 29-20, and Rockow recovered the Durand fumble on the first play of the Panthers’ following drive to take control.
“Our kids kept battling,” Brenner said. “It was really good for us to be in a close game like this. Tonight made us a tougher team.”
Regis built its lead early with a pair of methodical scoring drives late in each of the first two quarters. The Ramblers opened the scoring on an 11-play march down the field, going 62 yards and scoring on Rockow’s 5-yard touchdown rush with 1:45 left in the first quarter.
The Ramblers turned possession into points again with time running low in the second quarter. A pair of big runs by Theisen and Alex Leis kicked off a 77-yard drive, which took 10 plays and ended with Rockow’s 7-yard scamper to the end zone to put Regis up 15-0.
The Panthers eventually got on the board coming out of halftime. On their first drive of the third quarter, Dawson Hartung capped a nine-play possession with a 6-yard scoring run to cut the lead to 15-8.
Regis had another response. Jack Weisenberger plunged into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown run to put the Ramblers ahead by 15 with 5:06 left in the third quarter.
But Durand found a way to swing momentum back its way. Hartung added his second score of the game on a 1-yard run with 11:21 to go in the fourth quarter, and the Panthers blocked Regis’ punt on the following drive to set up Bauer’s touchdown run. But they couldn’t find a way to get the pivotal stop after trimming the lead to two.
Regis had four drives of seven plays or more — none more important than the one that followed the blocked punt.
“They come out and they block so well, and they get such a good drive from their offensive line,” Durand coach Rod Rosemeyer said of the Ramblers. “And their backs are so athletic. (Rockow) is so big and strong, it takes a couple of guys to tackle him. They’re going to chunk you down the field, and you’ve got to try to get a turnover or a stop for a 1- or 2-yard gain. We just didn’t get enough of those in the second half.”
After Rockow recovered the fumble late in the fourth quarter, Casey Erickson put the finishing touches on the victory with a 5-yard touchdown run for Regis.
Rockow finished with 105 rushing yards on 19 carries. Theisen added 83 yards on nine rushes for the Ramblers. Regis ran for 277 yards collectively, and Kendon Krogman completed all three passes he attempted for 54 yards.
“I’m proud of our guys,” Brenner said. “We put a real solid week of work together in preparation for this game. We asked them to believe in what we were telling them to do, and they did. They did a great job of trusting us as coaches and each other, and I thought they played with a lot of passion tonight.”
Bauer did a bit of everything for Durand. He ran for 128 yards on 19 carries and completed nine passes for 71 yards and a touchdown. The passing score came with 1:10 left in the fourth quarter as the Panthers continued to push.
“We’ve had a lot of adversity that we’ve had to deal with, and our guys just keep battling,” Rosemeyer said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the effort that they put in. They’ll fight to the end and we’ll see what happens at the end, but I’m very proud of the effort.”
Regis 36, Durand 26
Durand 0 0 8 18 — 26
Regis 8 7 7 14 — 36
R: Zander Rockow 5 run (Casey Erickson run), 1:45.
R: Rockow 7 run (Alex Erickson kick), 2:07.
D: Dawson Hartung 6 run (Simon Bauer run), 8:15.
R: Jack Weisenberger 1 run (Alex Erickson kick), 5:06.
D: Hartung 1 run (run failed), 11:21.
D: Bauer 5 run (pass failed), 9:49.
R: Gus Theisen 9 run (Alex Erickson kick), 4:17.
R: Casey Erickson 5 run (Alex Erickson kick), 2:47.
D: Ethan Anibas 7 pass from Bauer (pass failed), 1:10.
Team & Individual Statistics
RUSHING (att-yds): Durand (32-179): Bauer 19-128, Hartung 9-38, Ryan Mason 3-17, Cody Wieland 1-(-4). Regis (48-277): Rockow 19-105, Theisen 9-83, Alex Leis 8-48, Weisenberger 6-19, Casey Erickson 3-15, Josh Brickner 2-5, Colton Mohr 1-2.
PASSING (comp-att-int-yds): Durand: Bauer 9-12-0-71, Ethan Hurlburt 2-2-0-61, Mason 2-2-0-44. Regis: Kendon Krogman 3-3-0-54.
RECEIVING (rec-yds): Durand: Ethan Anibas 3-68, Ethan Hurlburt 4-55, Wieland 2-22, Hartung 2-19, Gunnar Hurlburt 1-16, Parker Traun 1-(-4). Regis: Rockow 1-31, Theisen 1-20, Leis 1-3.