The Rush City football team picked up its first win of the 2017 season in a low-scoring battle with Barnum, 14-12.
The Tigers looked to establish the dive play to senior fullback Riley Sykes early and often, and the strategy paid off — Sykes accounted for 123 yards, nearly half the Tigers’ eventual total of 261.
“We wanted to Riley going right away,” co-head coach Joe Lattimore said. “He really set the tone for the rest of us to feed off of.”
Sykes was the first player on either team to find the end zone, scoring on a three-yard run late in first quarter. He extended the lead to 8-0 when he added on the two-point conversion.
“Getting on the board early was a win for us,” Lattimore said.
The Bombers answered with less than a minute to play in the quarter, with running back Quinn Casey breaking through for an eight-yard touchdown. The Bombers missed the conversion attempt to tie, but took a 12-8 lead less than two minutes into the second quarter when Casey scored from 32 yards out.
The Tiger offense was hindered by three first-half turnovers, but once Barnum scored its second touchdown, the Tiger defense did not allow Barnum to score another point over the last 34 minutes of the 48-minute game.
“We had a lot of guys doing great things defensively,” Lattimore said.
Senior Jed Olson came away with an interception near the halftime break. Lattimore also credited the leadership of Tucker Leigland and the play of Anthony Hermanson as key to the Tigers’ many defensive stands.
“What defines our defense is that we play with a little bit of an attitude, a little bit of a chip on our shoudler,” Lattimore said. “The guys really respond to that.”
Rush City took the lead back on its first drive of the third quarter. Senior quarterback R.J. Galvez connected with junior reciever (and former running back) Brandon Guptill for 38-yard gamewinning touchdown.
“We asked Brandon to play a new position this season and he’s done a great job,” Lattimore said.
The Tiger defense forced two turnovers in the second half, and made a key stop midway through the fourth quarter, forcing Barnum to punt with a little over five minutes remaining,
Despite having to begin their drive from the own 15, the Tiger offense grinded out a lengthy drive that killed off all of the remaining time to preserve the two-point victory.
“That showed a lot of resilience and composure, and our guys’ will to win,” Lattimore said.
The final dagger play came on a run by Leigland, who fought off would-be tacklers until he had achieved the first down that would enable the Tigers to see off the remaining time.
“He just refused to go down,” Lattimore said. “That put the game out of reach.”
After going 1-1 in a pair of road games to begin the season, the Tigers get to stay home the next two Fridays.
“We’ve had a lot of support on the road, but we’re really looking forward to playing in front of our home fans,” Lattimore said.
The Tigers will host Chisholm (0-2) Friday night. The Bluestreaks were beaten by Braham and Eveleth-Gilbert in their first two contests.