Braves Eke Out 27-20 Win Over Royals
MARCUS - On a sweltering summer night, it was a battle to the bitter end before
Cherokee senior Trey Benson ended it all with an interception in the waning seconds to
give Cherokee's Braves a narrow 27-20 win over MMCRU's Royals here Friday night.
Cherokee, 1-0, travel to Onawa this Friday to face off against West Monona's Spartans,
while MMCRU remains at home for a district tilt with Hinton. West Monona, 0-1, lost
their opener last week to Alta-Aurelia, 21-6, while Woodbury Central blistered Hinton
It was a typical opening game for both clubs with too many penalties on both sides of
the ball, and some poor fundamental play at times. But, there was also positive play for
both teams, too.
"We were lucky to win and we'll learn from it," said Cherokee head coach Tony
Gunter. "We found out some of our guys are not in very good shape, so we'll be doing
some more running in preparation for our next game," he added.
Gunter credited MMCRU players for their physical play. "Hey, they hit harder than we
did, no doubt about it. They weren't shy about hitting us and they forced a couple big
fumbles," he said.
Cherokee jumped out to an early 14-0 first period lead on a nine yard touchdown run by
senior quarterback Will Lugar followed by a seven yard TD scamper by senior teammate
Levi Pingel. Mason Carver made both point after kicks good.
But the Royals bounced back in the second quarter when quarterback KC Nicks hooked
up with Kamden Steffen for a 30 yard touchdown. Then the Royals added 13 more points
in the third quarter on two Steffen fumble recoveries for touchdowns. Steffen went 18
yards for one score and 25 for another to give his team a 20-14 advantage going into the
"Credit KC Nicks for creating both of those fumbles that turned into scores," noted
MMCRU head coach Kyle Oswald. "We fought to the last play and everything we didn't
get right, we can fix. We have a good group of kids and they're working very hard," he
Oswald said he was pleased with his team's effort, but too many "stupid penalties and
miss-reads on defense hurt."
Trailing 20-14, Cherokee scored early in the fourth quarter on a four-yard run by Lugar
to tie the score at 20-20 with 7:34 to play. The point after failed, but seconds later,
Cherokee sophomore Jon Jenness picked up a fumble and ran it in for the game winning
score. The point after was good and that capped the scoring.
Pingel led the Braves in rushing with 75 yards on 13 carries and a touchdown, while
Lugar threw for 179 yards (13-22) and rushed for 25 yards and two touchdowns. Joe
Benson hauled in two passes for 57 yards, while brother Trey grabbed two aerials for 53
yards. Also, Carver caught three passes for 40 yards.
Defensively, Pingel led the way with six solo tackles, while Lugar and Jacob Hodgdon
had three solos each. Also for the Braves with two solo tackles each were Lugar, Joe
Benson, Nick Clark, Logan Allender and Logan Thorson.
Along with Trey Benson's game ending interception, teammate Logan Allender picked
off a pass for the Braves.
For MMCRU, KC Nicks passed for 82 yards (6-16), while Eban Hicks rushed for 66
yards on 16 carries to lead the Royals.
Defensively for the Royals it was senior Carson Pick leading the pack with six solo
tackles, while Steffen, Brenin Stodden and Owen Alesch all had four solos. Also for the
Royals, Preston Astidias, Bryce Tentinger and Keagan Stevens all had three solo tackles
each. Stevens also had an interception.
"We need to clean up the penalties and clean up our footwork," said Gunter. "That's all
is is up front, footwork. We're young with freshmen and sophomores starting in the line.
I'm just glad we have these three non district games to prepare for our district schedule,"
The Braves will play West Monona on Friday and then host MVAOCOU on Sept. 10,
both non-district games. The Sept. 10 game will be special for the Braves' Nation as it
will christen the new field and turf at George Hick Field.