WORTHINGTON -- In an impressive showing on every side of the football, the Worthington Trojans rolled to a thoroughly convincing 27-8 victory over New Ulm Friday night at Trojan Field.
Quarterback Brock Bruns threw for three touchdowns, Tate Gaul caught one touchdown pass and ran in a fumble 28 yards for another score, the Trojans’ running game got untracked, and the defense gave up less than 50 yards in the first half as WHS won its inaugural game on its brand new artificial turf.
After a scoreless first quarter, Worthington erupted with 20 second quarter points to take a 20-0 lead into intermission, then tacked on a fourth touchdown late in the third quarter. New Ulm didn’t score until 1:29 remained in the fourth quarter following a high Worthington snap on a punt attempt.
After losing on the road to Mankato East 39-14 in their season opener, the Trojans discovered that they possessed a dangerous quick-strike passing game. But they went into the New Ulm contest determined to improve in other areas -- holding their blocks better on the offensive line, being more consistent on defense, and building their running game which didn’t show up against the Cougars.
They accomplished every goal. The offensive line got off the ball well, admirably pass-blocked for Bruns, and helped senior running back Daniel Pavelko take the running game out of mothballs.
Head coach Gene Lais said the coaches reminded the players before the game that they were playing on an historic night -- the very first football game on Worthington’s remodeled field. He reminded them that they would be on the right side of history by winning.
“The kids played with a lot of energy and enthusiasm,” Lais said later. “It was just kind of fun for them. It was fun to watch them have fun.”
Pavelko gained 52 yards rushing in the first half, his best attempt coming early in the second quarter on a tackle-breaking 24-yard carry. He finished, unofficially, with 81 yards on 12 carries -- running hard and fast all the way.
Bruns, who fired two touchdown passes against East, threw the ball well throughout Friday’s game. He had one touchdown pass -- a 36-yard aerial to a wide-open receiver in the end zone -- brought back due to penalty. But he threw two TD passes in the second quarter.
The first came on a fourth-and-four play with 6:31 remaining till halftime, as he hit Gaul on a 20-yard pass to the left corner of the end zone. The second came with 1:16 left in the second stanza, as he threw a perfectly-timed slant to sophomore Abagotte Opiew on third-and-18. Opiew covered 45 yards of turf, juking one defender and outrunning the rest to paydirt.
New Ulm fumbled the ensuing kickoff. Blake Ahrenstorff knocked the football loose and Gaul was in the right place at the right time to pick it up. He ambled 28 yards untouched for the Trojans’ third score of the game.
Still in the third quarter, the 6-6 Bruns wasn’t done. After carrying 15 yards himself, and handing the ball off to Pavelko for a 10-yard run, the smooth-throwing, strong-armed QB found Marenono Opiew open over the middle. Opiew gathered the pass in stride, made some nice moves to avoid New Ulm tacklers, and left them in the dust.
Throughout the fourth quarter, Worthington looked to be on the verge of a shutout. But a high punt snap sailed over the head of Ahrenstorff, who fell on it at the Trojans’ 32-yard line. New Ulm moved forward on the short field as running back Dylen Carreon took it over from a yard away. A conversion run was good.
Carreon was New Ulm’s primary offensive threat throughout the game, rushing 19 times for 89 yards. The Eagles’ outstanding running back, Cole Ranweiler, was not in uniform.
Bruns passed for 115 yards and rushed for 26.
Worthington hosts Waseca next Friday.