Elk River running back Ryan Wilson (8) ran 50 yards for a touchdow in the first half as Rogers players Emmanuel Kapila (18) and Ben Dahl (7) defended. Photo: Shari L. Gross • email@example.com
This was not what anyone expected.
When Elk River and Rogers met 10 days ago in the regular-season finale, the two teams combined for 76 points and about 900 yards of total offense. A shootout in the rematch Saturday was practically a given.
Instead, it was the respective defenses that made their presence felt. And it was a pair of defensive plays by Elk River senior defensive back Bobby Heinzen that stood above all others, leading the Elks to a 20-14 victory over the host Royals in the Class 5A, Section 6 semifinal.
The game started off as anticipated. Rogers took the opening kickoff and marched swiftly downfield. Quarterback Easton Miller hit Joe Moss on a slant for a 14-yard touchdown and a quick 7-0 lead.
Elk River’s answer came just as quickly when running back Ryan Wilson swept around right end for a 50-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion failed, leaving Rogers with a 7-6 lead.
Just 25 seconds later, Heinzen made the first of his game-altering plays. After Rogers had reached the Elk River 10-yard line on a long run, Miller’s pass into the right flat was intercepted by Heinzen, who outran the Royals defense for a 90-yard touchdown and a 14-7 lead less than six minutes into the game.
“That was fun,” Heinzen said. “I watch a lot of film and film helps in those situations. I read the play and next thing you know, the ball is in my hands and I’m running down the field.”
Just as quickly as the flood of points happened, the spigot ran dry. Neither team scored until Miller, scrambling to his right on fourth-and-4 from the Elk River 31, directed Austin Auld to head downfield, then hit him in stride for a game-tying touchdown with less than three minutes left in the half. The teams were tied 14-14 at halftime.
Elk River mounted an epic 17-play, 64-yard drive lasting more than nine minutes to start the second half. The Elks appeared poised to take the lead, only to fumble the ball away on the Rogers 1-yard line.
“It felt like that could have been the moment when we lost it,” said Elk River coach Steve Hamilton. “But the defense stepped up and made plays. Obviously, that’s the best defense we’ve played all year.”
Elk River took the lead midway through the fourth quarter when Wilson went 68 yards for another touchdown on a play identical to his first score.
“I was just trying to catch the edge,” Wilson said. “As soon as I saw the opening, I just ran as fast as I could.”
Rogers mounted one last drive, moving to the Elk River 20 with less than two minutes left. But Heinzen dropped Miller a yard short of a first down on fourth-and-3, preserving the lead and the victory.
“I knew that play was coming,” Heinzen said. “Normally all you hear about is our offense. We were angry. So we came out here, did our job, and this is what happens.”
A game that was expected to be shootout turned into a defensive struggle Saturday with Elk River pulling out a 20-14 victory at Rogers in a Class 5A, Section 6 semifinal.
Ryan Wilson scored on runs of 50 and 68 yards for Elk River, the second one breaking a 14-14 fourth quarter tie.
Elk River’s Bobby Heinzen returned an interception 90 yards for a touchdown. He also made the defensive stop of the game, tackling Rogers quarterback Easton Miller a yard short of a first down on fourth-and-3 from the Elk River 19-yard line late in the game.
Check back later for more on the game.