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Paynesville Press - September 10, 2003

Fourth-quarter rally falls short as Cats top Dogs

By Coach Kyle Nehowig

football statsThe Paynesville Bulldogs staged a fourth-quarter rally - scoring 16 points and having a chance for a game-winning drive - before falling 30-16 at New London-Spicer on Friday night.

The Bulldogs trailed 22-0 entering the fourth quarter, but their offense, which had not scored in the first seven quarters of the season, produced two touchdown drives.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, junior fullback Mike Mueller rumbled 34 yards for a touchdown on a third-down play. With the two-point conversion (a pass to senior end Doug Mages from sophomore quarterback Jamie Paul), the Bulldogs trailed 22-8.

The Bulldogs recovered a NL-S fumble on their next possession, but fumbled the ball back two plays later. But the Dogs' defense held, and on fourth down, the Dogs tackled the Wildcats' punter, giving Paynesville great field position at the NL-S 45-yard line.

The Bulldogs then completed an eight-play, 45-yard drive for another touchdown. Key plays included a 22-yard completion from sophomore halfback Derek Stanger to Mages; a seven-yard completion from Paul to Mages on fourth down; and a nifty five-yard touchdown run by ninth grade halfback Randy Leyendecker.

Paul connected with Mages again for the two-point conversion, putting the Dogs within six points of tying the game at 22-16.

After a failed onside kick, the Bulldogs' defense held the Wildcats and forced NL-S to punt after three plays. The Dogs got the ball back at their own 20-yard line, needing to drive the length of the field to win.

This time, however, the Cats' defense held, and the Dogs turned the ball over on downs deep in their territory. The Wildcats scored on their first play from scrimmage, with senior running back Louie Pirrotta scoring on an eight-yard run. With the two-point conversion, the Cats won 30-16.

"I think we played a lot better this week, compared to our first game," said head coach Kyle Nehowig. "Mike Mueller and Pat Utsch each played a great game for us. Our offensive line - led by seniors Derek Burris and Jon Scheierl - really played well in the second half, opening up some nice holes for Mike Mueller to run through."

The Wildcats used a couple big plays to take a 14-0 first-half lead. With the game scoreless late in the first quarter, the Cats got the ball deep in their territory. On third and 12, though, the Cats used the hook-and-ladder play to net an 83-yard gain. Mages made a touchdown-saving tackle for the Bulldogs, chasing down Pirrotta and tripping him up on the Dogs' two-yard-line. But the Cats scored their first touchdown three plays later.

In their next possession in the second quarter, NL-S scored on a 60-yard pass play to increase their lead to 14-0.

The Wildcats also scored on their first possession of the second half. The Bulldogs actually had the Cats in a third and 18, but senior quarterback Grant Elton tossed a 24-yard completion to get a first down. On the next play, Elton completed his second touchdown pass of the game, giving NL-S a 22-0 lead.

The Bulldogs' defense also showed signs of improvement in the team's second game of the season. The Bulldogs forced NL-S to punt four times after not forcing any punts in their first game against St. Cloud Cathedral. The Bulldogs also forced a fumble and intercepted two passes in the second quarter (by Mages and by Leyendecker).

"Defensively we played well. We actually held them to 22 points until we were forced to go for it on fourth down deep in our own end at the end of the game," said Nehowig. "We still have to find a way to stop the big pass plays with either a better pass rush or better pass defense or a combination of both."

This week, the Bulldogs will host their home opener on Friday evening against Albany. The game starts at 7:30 p.m.

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