Rushford-Peterson stymies Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa to advance to US Bank
The Trojans picked off B-B-E quarterback Luke Dingmann four times to get past the Jaguars in a Class A state quarterfinal.
ST. BONIFACIUS -- The last time Malachi Bunke found himself representing the Rushford-Peterson green on the sidelines of U.S. Bank Stadium, he was a ball boy.
Now he will be there as the Trojans' starting quarterback.
Bunke tossed three touchdown passes to longtime favorite target Justin Ruberg and also had one of the four Trojans' interceptions from his safety spot to help Rushford-Peterson get past Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa 18-6 in a Class A state quarterfinal Friday night at Crown College.
The Trojans (12-0) will now play Minneota (12-0) in a Class A semifinal at 9 a.m. on Sat. Nov. 20 in their first trip to U.S. Bank Stadium since they were Class A runner-up in 2016. Minneota knocked off Mahnomen/Waubun 34-0 Friday night.
For Bunke, who was one of three players on this year's team to be ball boys during that 2016 state run along with Aaron Prinsen and Carson Thompson, a return trip to 'The Bank' had been a long time coming.
"I was hoping to get back here one last time before this but, hey, I'll take this," he said. "My senior year. No other better way to do it."
They did it with a familiar script of terrific defense and an offense that made just enough plays.
But at first, it took both teams a little bit to figure each other out and it appeared it was going to be scoreless heading into the second quarter. But Aaron Prinsen broke through right up the middle to block a Jaguars' punt and set up the Trojans offense for a first-and-goal. Two plays later, Bunke threw a fade for the 6-foot-5 Ruberg, who easily came down with it over the shorter corner, to make it 6-0 with seconds left in the first -- a score that would hold into the half.
"You don't get very many nowadays," Ruberg said of the single man coverage. "You have to take advantage when you get them."
The Jaguars (8-4) tied the game at six after Easton Hagen got behind the defense before making a great, leaping grab over the R-P defender and taking it the rest of the way for the 62-yard score midway through the third quarter. That would prove to be the only blemish for the Trojans' defense on the night as the Jaguars managed just 154 yards outside of that play.
"We've been together for such a long time," said Ruberg, who also plays linebacker. "We know where everyone is going to be and we play hard."
The Trojans would answer the 62-yard TD with a 63-yard bomb of their own after Bunke delivered a great pass into the the 15-20 miles per hour winds before Ruberg took care of the rest to make it 12-6 with just over three minutes remaining.
The two completed the hat trick just before the end of the third quarter with a 13-yard catch-and-run coming two plays after Dalton Hoel made the first of his two interceptions on the night. The score put the Trojans up 18-6 heading into the fourth quarter and with the way their defense had been playing up to that point, it felt like a four touchdown game.
The Trojans collected two more interceptions in the fourth with Hoel picking up his second after the pass he tipped on a jump ball fell into his lap while he was on the ground. Grady Hengel iced it with just about four minutes left with his interception. When it was all said and done, the Trojans' collected four interceptions off Dingmann, who had just two coming in. But the R-P defense had a feeling they could get some against the sophomore signal-caller.
"They throw the ball a lot," Bunke, who recorded his interception late in the first half. "So I kind of figured, we were going to have some opportunities to make some plays. ... We are a bunch of ball hawks, so we kind of baited him into those throws and we know we could get there and make plays. We did that tonight."
"It's a credit to the kids watching film," coach Davin Thompson said.
Dingman finished the night just 14 of 30 for 122 yards with four interceptions for the Jaguars, who had lost 25 consecutive games before making the program's first state tournament run this season.
"B-B-E, that's a good football team," Thompson said. "Physical, but once our guys settled in -- we gave up the big play on the scramble drill. That was really it."
The Trojans finished offense finished with just 202 total yards but that was the product of working with short fields throughout the night. Bunke finished with 164 yards passing on 10 of 18 throwing, while Ruberg finished with six receptions for 108 yards and three touchdowns.
For the two, it was moment years in the making.
"It kind of has come full circle because I mean we grew up in the backyard, we are neighbors and we're playing football everyday, so to throw three touchdowns to him is unreal," Bunke said. "No better experience. No better feeling."
The Trojans next test will be their toughest yet as they face off against a Minneota squad that has been ranked in the top two for the majority of the season. They have allowed just 25 points all season.
"We'll probably go into that as the underdog," Thompson said. "We'll take a look at the tape tomorrow and we'll make a plan. We'll give them everything we got, I can promise you that."
RUSHFORD-PETERSON 18, B-B-E 6
B-B-E 0-0-6-0 — 6
Rushford-Peterson 6-0-12-0 — 18
R-P — Justin Ruberg 12 pass from Malachi Bunke (kick no good), 0:49.
B-B-E — Easton Hagen 62 pass from Luke Dingmann (run failed), 5:12
R-P — Ruberg 63 pass from Bunke (pass failed), 3:02
R-P — Ruberg 13 pass from Bunke (pass failed), 0:30
BBE — R-P
First downs 11 — 8
Total Net Yards 216 — 202
Rushes-Yards 27-94 — 30-38
Passing Yards 122 — 164
Comp.-att.-int. 14-30-4 — 10-18-0
Penalties-Yds. 4-35 — 5-45
Fumbles-lost 0-0 — 1-0
B-B-E: Blaine Fischer 4-10; Gavin Kampsen 14-46; Luke Dingmann 8-37; Jamison Reed 1-1. Rushford-Peterson: Justin Ruberg 6-20; Hadyn Kahoun 6-2; Grady Hengel 7-13; Alex Ronnenberg 1-6; Malachi Bunke 9-(minus 7); Thomas Ekern 1-4.
B-B-E : Luke Dingmann 14 comp., 30 att., 4 INT, TD Rushford-Peterson : Malachi Bunke 10-18-0-3.
B-B-E: Easton Hagen 4-74; Jamison Reed 4-22; Gavin Kamsen 5-23; Blaine Fischer 1-5; Rushford-Peterson : Justin Ruberg 6-108, Grady Hengel 3-53, Alex Ronnenberg 1-3.