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BOYCEVILLE — The Bulldogs never led during regulation play of their home playoff game against the Tigers of Webster last Friday evening.
After trailing 6-0 at intermission, Boyceville scored midway through the third quarter, but its extra point kick was blocked by Webster, leaving the score tied.
It would remain that way until the Bulldogs were the first to score in the overtime period on a three-yard Sebastian Nielson run and then tacked on the all-important two-point conversion with a Tyler Dormanen run to lead by eight points.
The Tigers responded on their possession with a ten-yard touchdown pass on fourth down, but the Bulldogs’ defense rose up and tackled the Webster runner short of the goal line on the two-point conversion attempt to give Boyceville a heart-stopping 14-12 victory in the WIAA Division 6, level one playoff contest on Evenson Field November 13.
Despite being played on Friday the 13th and missing nearly half of its players and some coaches – including head man Michael Roemhild, who had to watch the game from his vehicle due to COVID-19 close contact precautions – Boyceville indeed felt fortunate to earn its first playoff win since 2012.
“This game was a game that won’t be forgotten,” emphatically stated head coach Micheal Roemhild following the overtime victory. “Due to close contacts we had almost half the team out and two coaches, me being one of them. So, to go to practice without the head coach and a scout team to give us a look was definitely an obstacle we had to overcome.”
“The players and coaches rallied around each other and were not going to use that as an excuse,” continued Roemhild. “I was able to video stream practices and communicate with the coaches and players safely, but it still wasn’t the same for practice. Watching from my car the whole game, is something I hope I never have to experience again. I will say that I am very proud of my coaching staff. From pre-game to post-game they were focused and prepared. They coached the players up to get us our first playoff win in eight years!”
“It had been six years since we were in the playoffs and eight years since we had a playoff win,” Roemhild added. “COVID or no COVID, to go from two wins last year to 6-1 overall with a playoff win and a chance to get revenge on Turtle Lake (our only loss), really says something about the determination this group of players and coaches had throughout the year.”
Unfortunately, the Bulldogs will not get a chance to play that rematch against the Lakers.
Boyceville, who hadn’t appeared in a playoff game since 2014, learned Monday, November 16 that it had been awarded a forfeit in its level two contest against Turtle Lake and will finish the 2020 season with an outstanding mark of 7-1, 5-1 and second place in the Dunn-St. Croix.
Defenses controlled much of the game as the offenses were limited to a combined tally of 308 yards – 177 for the Bulldogs and 131 for the visiting Tigers.
“I will give Webster’s linemen credit, they were big and athletic. We weren’t able to accomplish much on the ground and defensively we were fighting the whole night not to give up ground,” said Roemhild. “I think Ira (Bialzik) is really coming growing as a quarterback. He made some great passes under pressure tonight, and had some huge runs for us including a TD to tie it in the third. Besides a couple drops in the 4th quarter our receivers did a good job getting into their routes. When we needed our backs the most they came up big for us. Bash (Nielson) had the go ahead TD run in OT followed by a sweep with Tyler (Dormanen) for the two-point conversion. All 177 yards of offense we had, we had to fight for. I think we came out flat and the nerves of playoff football got to us for a while.”
Boyceville was presented with some early opportunities but were unable to convert them into points.
The Bulldogs began their first two possessions of the game at midfield but penalties and a stubborn Tiger defense quickly ended any promise those drives may have offered.
Instead, Webster was the first to score, taking advantage of a Boyceville turnover deep in its territory. Just a play after taking over at it own 15, the Bulldogs lost the ball when Tyler Dormanen fumbled and the Tigers’ Mason Gustafson recovered the football at the Boyceville 26 with 6:51 remaining in the second quarter.
Webster made the most of the opportunity with Gustafson, who led the Tigers’ running game with 68 yards on 21 carries, gaining nine yards on back-to-back runs to open the drive. Webster then handed the ball over to junior wide out turned running back Gage Rossow on three straight runs for 17 yards including a three-yard touchdown jaunt at 3:37 that gave the Tigers a 6-0 advantage. It would remain that way after Austin Sigfrids two-point conversion pass attempt fell incomplete.
Trailing 6-0 to begin the second half, the Bulldogs were finally able to take advantage of an opportunity.
After Boyceville had pinned Webster deep in its own end of the field and forced a punt, the Bulldogs began their second drive of the third quarter at the Tigers’ 47.
On its very first play from scrimmage, Boyceville hit a windfall of yards when junior quarterback Ira Bialzik connected with freshman receiver Braden Roemhild for 19 yards and then had an additional 15 added on to the end of the play after the Tigers were flagged for roughing the passer.
That took the ball to the Webster 14 where Bialzik called his own number and gained four on a run. On the next play, he then handed the ball to Nathan Stuart for a gain of three yards to the Tigers’ 7. Bialzik then took the ball once again and bulled his way to pay dirt on the seven-yard run to knot the contest at six. Webster crashed through the line and blocked Jacob Granley’s PAT to keep the game at sixes.
It would remain that way throughout the rest of regulation although Boyceville, in a possession reminiscent of its game-winning, fourth-quarter drive against rival Glenwood City, put together an 18-play drive that consumed nearly eight minutes of the final stanza only to end on the Tigers 16 yard line after a sack and incomplete pass had the Bulldogs turn the ball over on downs with just 56 ticks left in the game.
Webster won the overtime coin toss and chose to go on defense first.
Things did not get off to a good start for the Bulldogs as they were called for an illegal procedure penalty on their first play of overtime.
As each offense begins the overtime period on the opponent’s 25 yard line, the Bulldogs were moved back to the Tigers’ 30. But Bialzik erased the penalty and then some with a nice 18-yard pass play to Tyler Dormanen, who had circled out of the backfield and was wide open for the catch. With a first down at the 12, Bialzik went back up top, completing a nine-yard pass to Jacob Granley, the star of the Cadott victory. On the next play, Bash Nielson ate up the final three yards, giving the Bulldogs their first lead in the game at 12-6. Wanting to put some pressure on the Tigers, the Boyceville coaching staff opted to try for two. Tyler Dormanen took the handoff from Bialzik and sprinted wide right and into the end zone for the two-point conversion and a 14-6 Bulldogs’ advantage.
Webster’s offense then took the field, but would need not only a touchdown but a successful two-point conversion to extend the game to a second overtime. The Tigers almost did just that, converting on a pair of fourth down plays, including one from ten yards out on a pass play from Sigfrids to Rossow for a touchdown to trail by just two points with the impending two-point play to come. Mason Gustafson took the ball for the Tigers and ran wide left but was quickly pursued and tackled by a “pack of Dogs”, as Pastor Brad Peterson, the Bulldogs’ game announcer would say, short of the goal line to end the game and give Boyceville the thrilling 14-12 win.
“To only give up 131 yards of offense in the playoffs…I will take that any day,” remarked head coach Micheal Roemhild. “I thought Colby Dotseth and Nick Kaiser did a great job with our scheme. They are used to me making the calls and they are able to focus on little things to fine tune our defense. With me out this week, I was very happy with how our defense performed. Credit goes to the players as well. They know our scheme and were communicating the whole night on what was working and what we had to change.”
Ira Bialzik finished 9-of-13 for 95 yards passing and added another 18 yards and a touchdown on half a dozen rushing attempts. Tyler Dormanen led the Boyceville ground game with 34 yards on 11 attempts with Sebastian Nielson chipping in for 21 yards and the overtime TD on seven hauls. Nate Stuart had three carries for 11 yards. Jacob Granley caught four of Bialzik’s nine completions for 35 yards with Braden Roemhild corralling a pair for 27 yards and Dormanen had that key OT catch for 18 yards.
“What better way to get a playoff win than in OT,” concluded Roemhild. “During a time where we are not sure what will happen the next day. One thing that I am sure of is this team will not give up and will fight to the very end. Every game this year has been close for us, but these guys believe in each other as a team. There is not one guy on the team who is about himself. They are truly happy for each other. That is why we are winning our close games. I have seen a lot of players grow this year.”