Just out of reach

Matt Perkins

MINNEAPOLIS – On Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg’s (KMS) first play from scrimmage Nov. 28 at the Metrodome, the Royalton defense did exactly what it needed to do.

The Royals kept KMS running back Joel Bauman from running east-west and forced him into a stuffed hole up the middle for a two-yard loss.

Unfortunately, KMS’ second play told the story of the game better, as Bauman scampered to the outside for a 21-yard gain en route to a 289-yard performance and a 33-22 win over the Royals, which avenged a loss during the regular season. Bauman set a Prep Bowl record with 44 carries in the game.

“Bauman is just a freak of an athlete,” Royalton coach Joel Swenson said. “We knew what we had to do to stop him, but we failed to execute a few times and he burned us with big plays.”

Swenson said his team had done a good job of limiting its opponents’ big play abilities during their run for a state title, but they were unable to come up with stops on third and fourth down against the Fighting Saints.

Royalton began the game with a 12-play, 73-yard drive which ended with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Shawn Lanners to Zach Lanners.

But on their next possession, the Royals fumbled at their own 30-yard line and KMS capitalized on a Bauman touchdown run and extra point to take the lead, 7-6. KMS then scored to begin the second quarter on a 14-play, 72-yard drive which took over seven minutes off the clock.

“We rebounded when we needed to in that game,” Swenson said. “We were in a tough spot a couple of times and our guys found a way. There is nothing to be ashamed of there.”

Needing to get the momentum back in their favor, the Royals turned to the Lanners boys with two minutes left in the half.

Shawn Lanners found Brian Schlichting with a 20-yard pass and Zach Lanners followed that play up with a 43-yard tight-rope act down the sideline to find the endzone. Shawn scrambled for the two-point conversion which tied the game, 14-14, at halftime.

KMS came out firing in the second half, with quarterback Kevin Steinhaus completing a fourth-down pass for 39 yards to Aaron Zimmer for a touchdown.

Royalton was unable to answer with a fourth-down conversion of their own, turning the ball over and watching Bauman extend the lead with a 67-yard highlight reel run to put the Fighting Saints up, 27-14.

“Our corners have the containment on those plays, but we weren’t able to get the job done,” Shawn Lanners said.

Just before the end of the third quarter, Royalton got its only touchdown of the second half on a QB sneak by Shawn Lanners from a yard out. That score was made possible after Cole Jendro found Brad Schlichting 45-yards downfield on an end-around pass play.

But Royalton came close to scoring again, as close as the five-yard line, with five minutes left in the game and trailing 33-22.

“Our pass protection was sloppy,” Swenson said. “They really came at us there and got to Shawn every time.

With a second and goal from the five-yard line, Shawn Lanners was sacked for an 11-yard loss. The next play, pressure forced him to get rid of the ball early, resulting in an incomplete pass. And on fourth down, more pressure resulted in another sack.

“They hadn’t blitzed their linebackers all game and then they started coming hard,” Royalton senior running back Ryan Wiener said. “We weren’t ready for it and the linebackers got in.”

But Swenson said his seniors should be proud of the way they battled all season, and the loss should serve as experience for the juniors and sophomores who will be looked at as leaders next year.

“The experience you get from something like this isn’t something you can mimic during practice,” Swenson said. “I will tell our guys ‘you have been here before,’ and they will know exactly what they need to do.”

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