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GLENWOOD CITY — Sometimes a late, long-scoring drive can not only define a game but a season.
After surrendering its 12-3 halftime lead to Glenwood City, whose aerial assault produced a pair of third-quarter touchdowns for 13 points and a 16-12 advantage, Boyceville’s ground and pound attack, which had dominated the line of scrimmage for the entire contest, embarked on 90-yard, 19-play (all rushes) drive that consumed nine minutes and six seconds of the final stanza and resulted in 7-yard touchdown run by Sebastian Nielson to give the Bulldogs the lead. Nielson also converted on the two-point conversion run to up Boyceville’s advantage to 20-16 with just 2:37 remaining to be played.
But the Hilltoppers were not about to go quietly into the cool, crisp night air.
As it had done all game long, Glenwood City went up top as the passing game took the Toppers from its own 38 to the Bulldogs’ 20 yard line with just over a minute to play. But on a third down and three with 28 ticks on the clock, Bryce Wickman’s pass attempt sailed high and wide left ending up in the awaiting arms of Boyceville defender Ira Bialzik, who cradled the interception and fell to the ground at the eight.
Bialzik, who is also the Bulldogs’ quarterback, took a knee on the ensuing offensive play to run out the remaining seconds and give Boyceville a 20-16 come-from-behind victory on rival Glenwood City’s home turf last Friday, October 16.
“I can’t remember any team I have coached that started with the ball on their own 10 yard line, with 11 and a half minutes left in the game, down 4 points, and drove the ball 90 yards to pay dirt with a successful 2 point conversion,” said Boyceville head football coach Michael Roemhild. “Our offensive line and wide receivers blocked their butts off for our running backs and it showed. Bash (Nielsen) and Tyler (Dormanen) has their best games as running backs. Tyler had 24 carries for 136 yards and a score, while Bash had 26 carries for 110 yards and 2 scores. None more important than his last one with 2 and a half minutes left. I believe the last time we had two backs rush for 100 yards in the same game would have been with Will Kraft and Zach Klassen. They were work horses tonight and followed behind a line that was determined to get both of them in the end zone.”
Boyceville improved 3-1 on the season while Glenwood City, who suffered a second straight defeat on a fourth-quarter drive, dropped to 1-2. Both teams had three fumbles but while Boyceville lost only one, Glenwood City saw all three good to the Bulldogs who converted one into a six-point score.
The contest itself was a contrast in styles.
The Bulldogs, who ran the ball 62 times for 277 yards and had the ball for 69 plays in all – 30 more than the Hilltoppers, finished with 298 yards in all. The Hilltoppers’ final yardage tally was close with 293 yards but a whopping 280 of those came via the passing game as the hosts finished with just 13 yards rushing on seven tries.
“We suffered our second heartbreaking loss Friday night to Boyceville 20-16,” said Glenwood City head coach Shane Strong in his weekly post on the Glenwood City High School Football Facebook page. “Coming into the season, we knew one of our weaknesses would be our size and depth up front, which was exploited Friday night. Credit to Boyceville for using the power game to take away offensive possessions, limiting us to 39 plays on offense.”
“I felt our kids played hard rallying to the ball all night, but we need to improve our tackling,” continued Strong. “Offensively, we moved the ball well all night through the air reaching the red zone three times in our first few drives of the game, but we need to finish drives when we put ourselves in position to score.”
Coach Roemhild applauded his team’s effort in keeping Glenwood City out of the end zone especially in the first half.
“Defensively I thought we played really well in the first half,” stated Roemhild. “They were in scoring range a few times and our defense held strong, only giving up a field goal. Our defensive backs had to have a big game tonight and we had to get pressure on their quarterback.”
Glenwood City looked to put the first points on the scoreboard after it had forced a Boyceville punt to open last Friday’s game.
After an initial five-yard pass play from Bryce Wickman to Brady McCarthy on the Toppers’ opening possession which started at its own 40, Will Eggert dashed for 11 yards on second down. It turned out to be Glenwood’s best run of the night.
Wickman then connected on passes of six and 18 yards to Brandyn Hallquist and McCarthy respectively to a first down at Bulldogs 20. Although the first-down pass fell incomplete, Boyceville was flagged for pass interference which moved the ball to the 10. But two plays later, Wickman was sacked and fumbled the ball which was scooped up by the Bulldogs’ Jacob Granley at the 11 to end the GC threat with 8:15 left in the first quarter.
Boyceville’s second possession would be short lived, however. On second down, Tyler Dormanen was hit by a host of Hilltoppers for a six yard loss and to make matters worse, he coughed up the ball which was recovered by GC’s Will Eggert at the three yard line.
But in three plays all the Hilltoppers could gain was a single yard as the Bulldog defense rose to the occasion. Instead of trying for the six points on a fourth and two, Glenwood City decided to attempt the field goal. Marcis DeSmith rewarded his coaches’ confidence but booting the 19-yard field goal straight down the middle for a 3-0 Glenwood City lead with 5:48 left in the first.
But the Bulldogs had an answer, actually a pair answers in the form of back-to-back, 67-yard touchdown drives that would give visiting Boyceville control of the game and a 12-3 lead heading into halftime.
Following Glenwood City’s kickoff, Boyceville got to work on the its first scoring foray of the evening. Behind a dominating line that muscled the Topper defenders around, Tyler Dormanen and Sebastian “Bash” Nielson collected 33 and 32 yards respectively on the 17-play (all rushes) drive which was capped by Nielson’s five yard push to pay dirt at the 9:12 mark of the second quarter. Although Nielson came up short on the conversion run, the Bulldogs were now in front 6-3.
It wouldn’t be long and the Bulldogs were once again on the run.
Just two plays into its offensive possession, Glenwood City’s Will Eggert fumbled the football at the end of a 16-yard pass reception and the Dogs’ Ira Bialzik came up with the recovery on his team’s own 33.
This 67-yard drive needed just eight plays as Tyler Dormanen broke several Hilltopper tackles and scampered 41 yards for six more Bulldog points with 3:27 until halftime. Although the conversion pass from Bialzik to John Klefstad was good, Boyceville was called for an illegal procedure. On the ensuing replay of the point after, Bialzik’s pass fell incomplete, leaving the score at 12-3.
That was also the score at intermission after Glenwood City moved down to the Boyceville two-yard line but failed to score in four tries after a long pass of 37 yards from Wickman to Drew Olson had put the Toppers on the Bulldog six.
Boyceville opened the second half with a successful execution of the onside kick which it recovered at midfield. But the Bulldogs managed only 12 yards in eight plays before turning the ball back over on downs to the Hilltoppers.
That stop saw a huge swing in momentum that favored Glenwood City.
Taking over at their own 38-yard line, the Hilltoppers used two huge passing plays to put themselves into the end zone.
A 37-yard throw from Wickman to Drew Olson on the first-play from scrimmage put the Toppers on the Bulldogs’ 25. Then, just two plays later, Wickman slung a pass out wide to Gavin Janson who did the rest, taking the football 24 yards to end zone for the Toppers for six-point score of the evening. DeSmith kicked the ball through the uprights and suddenly Glenwood City was within two of the Bulldogs at 12-10 with 7:27 left in the third.
After forcing the Bulldogs to punt on their ensuing possession, the Hilltoppers took over at their own 41 and need just two pass completions to find six once again. Wickman connected for 22 yards on a first-down pass to Brandyn Hallquist and then followed that with a 37-yard scoring strike to Olson, who had worked himself free along the sideline and behind the Boyceville defense. Although the Toppers’ two-point pass attempt was unsuccessful, the home team now lead 16-12 with 4:25 still left on the third-quarter clock.
The teams exchanged punts with Glenwood City backing up the Bulldogs’ to their own ten-yard line on the latter of the punts, just 15 seconds into the final stanza.
As it had done on its previous two touchdown drives in the second quarter, Boyceville stayed exclusively with its running game consuming yardage and clock as it did.
With 11:45 left in the game and 90 yards to go, the Bulldogs put the ball into the hands of its back field players – running backs Tyler Dormanen, Bash Nielson and Nathan Stuart and quarterback Ira Bialzik.
Stuart and Bialzik each had a pair of runs for six and 14 yards respectively, but it was Dormanen and Nielson who proved to be the workhorses of the drive, like they had all evening. Dormanen carried ten times for 40 yards in the series and Nielson made the most of his five hauls netting 30 yards including the eventual game-winning, seven-yard jaunt with 2:37 to play that put the Bulldogs ahead by two points. After a redo on the conversion try due to a Toppers’ pass interference penalty, Nielson ran in the conversion for two more points and a 20-16 advantage.
Boyceville was able to stave off a Toppers’ rally as Bialzik pick off a pass near the goal line to end the Topper threat and the game which ended in a four-point Bulldogs’ victory.
“It has been a long time since I have been in an intense, exciting game like tonight,” said Roemhild. “Tonight brought me back to the time when we were successful in football. Tonight, though stressful, was the reason I began coaching again. Tonight this young team grew. Tonight, they hurdled obstacles thrown at them and would not accept defeat. To be able to travel seven miles down the road, against an old rival, and leave with a W is the very reason I am proud of this Boyceville Bulldog football team!”
Despite his team’s second straight defeat, Coach Strong lauded its effort and progress writing, “We are light years ahead from a year ago, which is a credit to the kids. We have high expectations for them where great effort and attitude is a daily expectation. The boys have embraced a new system that takes a great deal of effort and attention to detail. Without a summer to install it, they have really improved in a short window of time.”
Likewise, Roemhild was extremely pleased with his charges performance through the first month of competition.
“This was a huge confident booster for the guys. I couldn’t be more proud of them as a team,” concluded Roemhild. “They wanted this win bad and were not going to accept leaving with a loss. They are just a fun bunch to coach who are just growing as a team each week.”
Boyceville returns home this Friday to host Clear Lake while Glenwood City will travel to Colfax to face the winless Vikings.