Bluejay football season comes to a close
Friday night Oct. 18, saw the Merrill football team step onto the field for the final time this season, and last time ever for the Bluejay seniors. The Jays played undefeated conference foe Medford in their finale, with the Raiders besting Merrill by a final score of 44-7.
Coming into the game the Jays knew they were facing a top tier team, with the Raiders holding the a rank of 3 in Wisconsin division 3 football. Medford capped off their 9-0 perfect regular season with the win over Merrill, outscoring Great Northern Conference (GNC) opponents by a combined 179 points this season, which included allowing a total of only 56 points scored against them.
Merrill got down early in the contest, falling behind 16-0 in the first quarter. Seven minutes into the game Medford would block a Merrill punt, sending it through the back of the endzone for a safety. On the Raiders ensuing drive they would march down the field and cap it off with a three-yard touchdown run from Ian Wilson, taking an early 9-0 lead. Less than two minutes later Medford would find the endzone again, this time on a Emett Grunwald 14-yard rush. The Raiders offense would continue to pour it on in the second quarter, as Grunenwald found some space and broke off a 40-yard touchdown run with 6:07 remaining in the half. Medford got themselves into the endzone one last time before halftime, taking advantage of a Bluejay tunrover and punching their ticket to the endzone on a five-yard throw from Logan Baumgartner to Doug Way.
The Jays would come out of halftime fired up and looking to even the score, however Medford would prove to be too much for Merrill to handle. Early in the third quarter Medford’s Blaine Seidl would snag a pass from Merrill’s QB, Caleb DeJong, and take it to the house for a pick-six. Now leading 37-0, Medford would score their final touchdown of the game on a Peyton Kuhn five-yard run with 1:02 remaining in the third. Merrill’s lone touchdown of the game came with 47-seconds left in the game, as Caleb Timm hooked up with tight end Piersen Pyan on a six-yard touchdown pass.
“Our guys fought hard, but this game was really the only time this year I’ve felt like we were just outmatched and overpowered by a team,” said Merrill head coach Rob Klug. “They were a very well coached and disipined team and they were better than I had thought.”
Despite the up and down season for the Jays, coach Klug was proud of his teams fight.
“I’m really impressed by this group and how they never gave up,” added Klug. “A lot of times you see kids who give up after having a slow start like we did, but that wasn’t the case with this group. From day one to game nine, this team has come a long way and you wish you could play some of those games over, but you can’t and I’m happy with the progression these guys made. Our seniors were really our backbone and there are some guys who are going to be really hard to replace. Caleb Timm, Dawson Dengel and Zach Iribarren are some guys who played nearly every down for us and that’s gonna be tough to duplicate. It’s hard to say what the team will look like next year, but we just need to get stronger and faster and we will be alright.”
Merrill’s offensive leaders against the Raiders include Timmy Handlin who ran for 86 yards on six carries. Caleb DeJong rushed for 29 yards, with 24 passing yards. Piersen Pyan was the leading receiver for the Jays with three receptions for 39 yards and a touchdown.
On the defensive side, Nik Zastrow led the way with 10 tackles. Caleb Timm totaled six tackles on the game, including one forced fumble. Mason Vandervelde and Eddie Collinsworth rounded out the defensive efforts with five tackles each.
Merrill ends their season with an overall record of 2-7, going 2-4 in the GNC, as they miss the playoffs for their second straight season.