Gallery: Grizzlies run over The Panic in 1st round of playoffs
Published 8:02 pm Saturday, June 28, 2014
By Jacob Tellers
After getting shut out in the first half, the Albert Lea Grizzlies fought back with two rushing touchdowns by quarterback Tony Tolbers to keep their season alive.
A rain-drenched field provided a drastically different atmosphere for the Grizzlies in their second game against The Panic in two weeks, but the result was the same.
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The Grizzlies followed a 42-24 win over The Panic in the regular season finale with a 20-5 victory Saturday in the first round of the Southern Plains Football League playoffs at Grizzly Field in Frank Hall Park.
Holding The Panic to five points was the Grizzlies’ best defensive showing all season.
“The defense was absolutely lights out,” said Albert Lea head coach Stephen Piper. “I’m so excited to be heading into the second round.”
The game began in the middle of a downpour, and officials delayed the game with 1 minute, 30 seconds left in the first quarter due to lightning. Play resumed 45 minutes later, and the Panic got on the board first to take their only lead of the game with a 35-yard field goal toward the end of the first quarter.
Passes from Tolbers to Marquis Shaw and Trent Leesch brought the Grizzlies into the red zone on their first drive of the second quarter, but they were unable to capitalize.
Neither team scored in the second quarter.
The rain subsided in the second half with only occasional drizzles for the rest of the game.
At halftime, Piper posed a question to the team.
“Do you want to play next week?” he asked. “It is as simple as that. It’s the playoffs. If you want to play next week you have to play today.”
The Panic received the ball to start the second half and opened with a run up the middle that was stuffed for a loss by veteran Grizzlies lineman Chris Hable.
“Our defensive line set the tone for the game,” said Albert Lea defensive coordinator Jeff Jimenez. “They don’t get props very often, but they were awesome.”
On the same drive, Albert Lea’s special teams blocked a punt to take over inside the Panic’s 10-yard line.
The Grizzlies didn’t waste a second of their second visit to the red zone as Tolbers found the endzone on the first play of the drive to put the Grizzlies up 6-3.
On their next drive, The Panic attempted to go for it on fourth-and-12 from their own 43-yard line. Albert Lea linebacker Kaelyn Kohtz came through with the sack to force a turnover on downs.
A deep pass from Tolbers to Shaw brought the Grizzlies to the 16-yard line. Tolbers ran down the left sideline for a first down on third-and-10 to set up first-and-goal from the five-yard line. Tolbers ran a quarterback keeper on the next play for his second rushing touchdown to put the Grizzlies up 14-3 with a successful 2-point conversion.
The Panic’s second and final score came late in the third quarter. The Grizzlies were lined up to punt, and the ball was snapped before the punter was ready. It rolled out of the back of the end zone for a safety.
A sack by Cole Read on third down followed by a Cameron Solie sack on fourth-and-20 ended The Panic’s last drive of the game.
Running back Lamar Sayles was ejected from the game in the fourth quarter for arguing and swearing at an official after unsportsmanlike conduct penalties had been called on Sayles and the opposing player.
The conflict involved racial slurs from a defender for The Panic, according to Piper.
“It’s still no excuse,” he said. “What we tell our guys is real simple. It doesn’t matter what they do or what they say. You don’t react. Period.”
Piper said Sayles’ ejection means he will be suspended from playing next week in the semifinal round, a ruling that Piper has said he will appeal this week.
Next, the No. 4-seed Grizzlies (6-3 overall) will face the No. 1-seed Southwest Huskerz (8-1 overall) in the SPFL semifinals at 7 p.m. Saturday at Trojan Field in Worthington.
The playoff game will be the third time the teams have faced each other this season.
The Huskerz defeated the Grizzlies 40-2 in a preseason game, and Albert Lea made up some ground during the regular season but lost 32-22 when a fourth-quarter rally fell short.
Statistics are in the Scoreboard: June 28-30 post.