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Written by: Luke Snavely on Saturday, September 12th, 2020
The Bulldogs line up at the line of scrimmage, ready to start their offensive drive.
On Sept. 11, the Freedom Bulldogs looked to defeat the New Brighton Lions in their season opener at Bulldog Stadium. Last year, the two teams clashed in an intense Steelers Showcase Game of the Week, drawing an estimated 3,000 fans in attendance. Ultimately, Freedom defeated New Brighton 24-21 in that game. This year was certainly different.
Due to COVID-19 safety precautions, a maximum of 250 people were allowed in the stadium. This included the Big Red Marching Band, two football teams, cheerleaders and fans. Although there weren’t as many fans as last year, this was still a highly anticipated matchup. The game was even streamed on a Freedom broadcast, so fans could still watch the game.
Both teams were off to a very slow start. With only five minutes and 10 seconds remaining in the first quarter, the Lions struck first with their first regular season touchdown. The rest of the first quarter basically saw no action.
The start of the second quarter was similar to the first. There wasn’t very much action until there was eight minutes and 24 seconds remaining in the quarter. Stuck on their own 20 yard line, the Lions needed to find a way to gain yards. Instead, the Lions fumbled the ball right to sophomore Damian Grunnagle. Grunnagle, who led the team with nine tackles this game, picked the ball up and hustled into the end zone to score his very first varsity football touchdown.
When asked about his first varsity touchdown, Grunnagle said, “It was exciting. I’ve never scored a touchdown in a varsity game before. It was my first one, so it felt good.”
Senior kicker Garrett Paxton stepped up to take the extra point kick, when suddenly the Lions got a flag. With the extra yardage, the Bulldogs looked to take advantage with a two point conversion. However, the two point conversion failed, making the score 7-6 Lions.
Then, the Lions returned a punt to the Bulldogs’ 51 yard line. The Lions were gaining momentum and yards, until they hit a roadblock: fourth down. Wanting to increase their lead, the Lions went on fourth down and converted. This conversion would lead the Lions to score a touchdown with three minutes and 42 seconds left in the half, extending their lead to eight.
Just 20 seconds later, the Bulldogs fumbled the ball at their own 10 yard line. The Lions weren’t able to take full advantage of the situation due to the Bulldogs’ stellar defense in their end of the field. However, New Brighton senior kicker Chase Yopp made a 21 yard field goal to give his team a 17-6 lead.
To wrap up the second quarter, Freedom senior quarterback Cole Beck cut his left hand with just 59 seconds remaining. Luckily, he was alright and able to continue playing.
The third quarter saw no scoring but did see some interesting plays. With eight minutes and 56 seconds remaining in the quarter, Freedom junior Josh Pail intercepted a pass and went into the Lions’ end zone. However, the touchdown was called back, and the Bulldogs were unable to score off of the drive.
The Bulldogs also fumbled the ball on the Lions’ 15 yard line with a mere 2.8 seconds remaining in the third quarter. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, this fumble would not lead the Lions to score.
The fourth quarter contained the only scoring in the second half of the game. With six minutes and 28 seconds remaining, the Bulldogs prepared for a punt return. However, they mishandled the ball, giving the Lions great field possession at the Bulldogs’ own 23 yard line. The Lions capitalized on the Bulldogs’ mistake, getting yet another touchdown. This drive sealed the final score of a dominating 24-6 Lions’ victory.
Although the outcome of this game wasn’t what the Bulldogs were expecting, the team is still hopeful for their future games. They hope to gain their first win against Riverside on Sept. 18.
“We just need to practice a lot this week and get better,” Grunnagle said. “Hopefully, next week we can bounce back and get a win against Riverside.”
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