G-T/R-A plays spoiler for No. 9 Gladbrook-Reinbeck

Gladbrook-Reinbeck quarterback Isaac Clark, center, is tackled by Graettinger-Terril/Ruthven-Ayrshire defenders Kaden McCoy (2) and Kory Hough (13) on a two-point conversion try during Friday’s 8-Man playoff football game in Gladbrook. GTRA won 58-28.

This wasn’t how Gladbrook-Reinbeck’s first-round playoff game was supposed to go.

The No. 9-ranked Rebels had gone 7-1 on the season, finishing second in their district and earning a home game in the first round. Their opponent was Graettinger-Terril/Ruthven-Ayrshire, a 7-1 team in the regular season as well. However, very quickly in Friday night’s game it was made perfectly clear how serious the Titans were about giving G-R a challenge.

A 28-yard touchdown run from quarterback Max Hough put the Titans up 6-0 just 2 minutes, 16 seconds into the game. They would never trail in a 58-28 win over G-R, ending the Rebels’ season at 7-2.

Hough caused G-R a world of problems throughout the game, running for an eye-popping 320 yards on 32 carries and completing two passes for 60 yards.

Head coach John Olson didn’t criticize his defense after the game, saying the unit still did enough for the Rebels to have a chance to win.

“Things got away from us,” Olson said. “We had our plays, we had our opportunities, we just couldn’t match them. We stopped them enough times, but then we gave them short fields, so they took advantage of the situations when they got turnovers and we didn’t and that’s why the score is spread out.”

G-R fought back after Hough’s opening touchdown, scoring on an Isaac Clark run to tie the game at 6-6. Two scores from Hough — including a 45-yard pass to running back Drew Schnell — put the Titans ahead 20-6.

After another Clark run from five yards out and a two-point conversion, G-R was within 20-14. But Hough had other ideas, scampering for 55 yards and a score in the final seconds of the first quarter. Twelve minutes into the postseason, the Rebels were already down 28-14.

GTRA lead to 36-14. It was only after a 14-yard toss from Clark to Luke Riffey that the Rebels got back within two scores, trailing 36-22 at the break.

Gladbrook-Reinbeck’s final points of the game came with 6:32 left in the third quarter. A pass over the middle from Clark to Caleb Egesdal was caught for a 16-yard score, putting the Rebels within one score of GTRA at 36-28.

Four minutes later, a 3-yard run from Schnell re-established the Titans’ two-score lead.

The real dagger sequence for G-R came in the first minute of the fourth quarter. The Rebels had third and one from the GTRA 1-yard-line and failed to score, with Clark’s pass on fourth down tipped by a Titan defender.

After forcing a three-and-out, Clark threw his second interception of the game the very next play. Hough grabbed both picks. Then, the Titans went on a six-minute drive capped off by a 1-yard run from Schnell to go up 52-28 with less than three minutes to play. An added on score with 1:50 left was icing on the cake for the Titans, who will find out their opponents for the round of 16 Saturday morning. They ran for 436 yards on the night and gained 521 total yards. G-R had 308 and threw for 276.

For the Rebels, there is promise for next season despite the pain of Friday’s defeat. A new-look offense focusing on the passing game was a first at the 8-man level for Olson, and he said that the Rebels need to continue to find ways to fine-tune their new system.

“We’re still learning as coaches,” Olson said. “We realized that the pocket doesn’t matter, the field size doesn’t matter, it’s all about timing. When you wanna throw the ball, you’ve got to throw the ball.”

“I think we got it figured out now, but we don’t have it perfected.”