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Prep football: Rough first half sinks Trojans in opener

ZACH HACKER/DAILY GLOBE Worthington Trojan runner Torey Rogers (44) runs over Cade Johnson (1) of Redwood Valley as he crosses the goal line for a first quarter touchdown Friday night in Redwood Falls.

REDWOOD FALLS – What started like a dream for Worthington quickly turned into a nightmare Friday in its season opener against Redwood Valley.

The Trojans provided some early fireworks with a quick score, but from there out it was pretty much all Cardinals. The home team scored 49 unanswered points after the opening score and went on to hand the Trojans a 52-14 Big South Conference loss.

Worthington coach Brad Grimmius is trying to see it as a game his team needs to just put behind it.

“I told the guys in the huddle that if they’re going to win this game or the last game, I’d rather we win the last game,” he said. “The sun will come out tomorrow. This shows us that we need to elevate our game.”

The game couldn’t have gotten out to a much better start for Worthington. On the first play from scrimmage, Torey Rogers pounded his way through the Cardinals’ line and rumbled 61 yards all the way to the Redwood Valley 10. Two plays later, he plunged over the goal line for an 8-yard score. Ernst Coriolan knocked the PAT through and just 1:10 into the season the Trojans had a 7-0 lead.

Everything went south from there.

Less than two minutes into their own opening drive, the Cardinals busted the first of what would be many big plays. Cade Johnson hit Adam Aliex on a hook route. He turned down the sideline and dashed 42 yards to the end zone. Aidan Dirlam’s ensuing kick tied the score at 7-7.

The home team claimed its first lead just one play later when Dirlam scooped up a Worthington fumble and returned it 27 yards for six. With 8:58 still remaining in the first, Redwood Valley held a 14-7 lead.

“We were reeling,” Grimmius said of the state of his team after the turnover. “They gained momentum and they kept it for the rest of the first half. You’ve gotta be able to face adversity.”

Johnson made it a 21-7 ballgame by the time the first quarter came to a close when he broke a quarterback keeper for a 73-yard touchdown run. Only 16 ticks into the second, Jacob Prouty went virtually untouched on another 73-yard touchdown run and it was all Redwood Valley at 28-7.

“We didn’t stop their option run,” Grimmius said. “There is some fundamental stuff we have to work on.”

After a quick three-and-out for the Trojan offense — which sputtered through the first half after the opening drive — Redwood Valley added to its lead. This time, it was a 34-yard pass from Thomas Buboltz to Johnson, giving the junior a passing touchdown, rushing touchdown and receiving touchdown with 10:34 yet to play in the second quarter. His third gave the Cardinals a 35-7 lead.

Late scores for Dan Kohler and Aliex put Worthington in a 49-7 hole at halftime.

“Don’t take anything away from Redwood,” Grimmius said. “Their quarterback was spot-on. He made some unbelievable throws and the receivers were making catches.”

Robert Lovan provided a spark for the Trojans’ offense to start the second half. After Troy Ektnitphong picked off a Johnson pass at the Redwood Valley 40 on the first play of the half, Lovan showed some muscle in the running game.

On a 4th-and-1 play, Lovan’s strong second effort gave Worthington a first down. Twice he bullied his way to a first on third down, the second of those got him over the goal line. The 1-yard run got the Trojans back on the board at 49-14 with 7:50 in the third.

“At halftime our goal was, we were looking to score on the first drive,” Grimmius said. “We wanted to win the second half and we did that.”

Dirlam was true on a 30-yard field goal early in the fourth to bring the scoring to a close.

Final unofficial statistics had Redwood Valley rushing 24 times for 232 yards and Worthington rushing 50 times for 219 yards. WHS sophomore quarterback Tucker Sorenson completed two of six passes for two yards. Redwood Valley passed for 120 yards.

Rogers led a multi-pronged Trojan rushing attack with 83 yards on nine carries. Eric Landgaard carried seven times for 33, Ektnitphong 10 times for 22, Lovan seven times for 29, Johnny Murillo three times for 28 and Zach Bruns five times for 27.

Worthington (0-1 overall, 0-1 BSC) will return to the friendly confines of Trojan Field at 7 p.m. Friday for its home opener. Coming to town will be a tough Waseca squad that will be kicking off its season after going 9-1 in 2013.

“We’ll lace our shoes up on Monday just as we have been all year and get back after,” Grimmius said.

Worthington 7 0 7 0 – 14

Redwood Valley 21 28 0 3 – 52

Zach Hacker

Zach is the Daily Globe sports reporter. He has previously been a sports editor at both the Waseca County News in Waseca, Minn., and The Emporia Gazette in Emporia, Kansas. He is originally from New Richland, Minn., and now lives in Worthington with his dog; a beagle-corgi mix named Homer. In his spare time he enjoys spending time with family and friends, pontooning on St. Olaf Lake and watching professional and collegiate sports.

(507) 376-7335