Turnovers, special teams miscues doom Trojans

Mendota’s Cole Stremlau tries to break free of a Rockford Lutheran defender after catching a pass while teammate Eddy Sandoval provides support on Sept. 7 at Rockford. (Reporter photo)

ROCKFORD – Last year, Mendota stunned Rockford Lutheran with three late touchdowns to overcome a 14-point deficit for the victory. No such luck this season.

The Trojans fell behind by two touchdowns in the opening stanza and never could catch up in absorbing a 34-6 loss to the Crusaders in Big Northern Conference football action on Sept. 7 at Rockford.

The setback was Mendota’s third straight to open the season, while Lutheran won for the first time in three outings.

Both teams played sloppy football on a muddy field with penalties and turnovers the story for each squad. And Mendota’s special teams made several miscues that ultimately led to Lutheran scores. The Trojans turned the ball over three times (two interceptions, one fumble), had a short punt that put the Crusaders in position to score and had another punt blocked that culminated in a Lutheran TD.

Mendota’s offensive struggles continued as it gained just 130 yards in the contest. Lutheran totaled a modest 218 yards, but each of its five touchdowns were scored from at least 17 yards out.

After each team punted on its opening series, the Trojans’ first turnover came when Luke Rundblade picked off a Gavin Glazebrook pass and returned it 8 yards to his own 48-yard line. Five plays later, speedy running back Tareiq Blake-Washington dashed 24 yards to the end zone for the game’s first score. Joshua Oetting added the extra-point kick. A 15-yard personal foul penalty on Mendota aided the Crusaders’ cause during the drive.

Mendota couldn’t generate any offense on its next series and was forced to punt the ball back to Lutheran. Unfortunately, the boot sailed only 16 yards and the Crusaders took over possession on the Trojan 37-yard line. On Lutheran’s first play from scrimmage, Carivious “Tiger” Brown sprinted 37 yards to paydirt to make it 13-0 with six seconds left in the first quarter. The PAT kick was no good.

Mendota began its ensuing possession on its own 30, and Edwin Angulo quickly got the Trojans into Lutheran territory with a 34-yard run to the Crusader 36-yard line. Two personal foul penalties on Lutheran moved the ball to the 8. Then pass interference and offsides miscues by the home team put the Trojans at the 3, where Angulo capped off the 70-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run. Mendota’s two-point conversion run was stopped short.

Lutheran answered quickly when it went up top for two long passes that covered 65 yards to stretch the lead back out to two touchdowns. D’Antone Meadows gathered in both aerials from Oetting, the first a 39-yarder and the second a 26-yard hookup into the end zone. Brown ran in the two-pointer to make it 21-6.

Punts by each team, a fake punt by Mendota that went awry and a Lutheran fumble closed out the first half.

Mendota’s offense couldn’t take advantage of another Crusader fumble that was recovered by Quentin Bailey, and then a Trojan punt was blocked by Rundblade and returned to the Mendota 22-yard line. Lutheran moved 5 yards in three plays, and facing a fourth-and-5, Oetting slashed his way through the Mendota defense for a 17-yard touchdown run. The two-point run failed.

A lost fumble by Angulo was negated when Eddy Sandoval swiped an Oetting offering at the Trojan 20-yard line, but Lutheran stopped Mendota as it went for a fourth-down play at the 26. Two minutes later, Brown ran in from 17 yards out, followed by an Oetting kick, to complete the scoring.

Lutheran had another chance to score late in the contest when Christian Bonacquisti intercepted a Glazebrook pass and returned it to the Trojan 4-yard line, but Mendota’s defense stiffened and kept the Crusaders out of the end zone.

The Trojans had 69 yards rushing and 61 yards passing. Angulo picked up 65 yards in 26 attempts, while Glazebrook completed eight passes. Cole Stremlau caught three passes for 34 yards. Brown ran nine times for 92 yards to pace Lutheran.


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