• 34°

Success on special teams not enough for Rebels against Crusaders

United South Central's Trevor Stencel looks for an open reciever Friday against Mankato Loyola at Wells. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

United South Central’s Trevor Stencel looks for an open reciever Friday against Mankato Loyola at Wells. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

WELLS — Forcing two safeties and wreaking havoc on all three of Mankato Loyola’s extra point attempts wasn’t enough to keep the United South Central football team’s record perfect.

With 58.7 seconds left in the fourth quarter on fourth-and-10 from the Crusaders’ 30-yard line, Trevor Stencel’s pass sailed within inches of Zach Linde’s fingertips but fell incomplete, and Mankato Loyola held off USC 18-16 Friday in its home opener at Wells.

“We had some opportunities, and we missed some opportunities,” said Rebels coach Brad Huse.

In the first quarter, USC (1-1, 0-1 Mid Southeast-West District) scored the first points of the game on a five-yard strike from Stencel to Linde.

Loyola (2-0, 1-0 Mid Southeast-West District) responded with a one-yard rushing touchdown early in the second quarter to tie the game 6-6, but Adam Knutson blocked the extra point. It was the first of several special teams successes for the Rebels.

After USC’s next drive stalled, the Rebels’ punt unit pinned the Crusaders at their own four-yard line. USC’s defense moved Loyola back three yards the next three plays, and Ryan Kloos blocked the punt for a safety.

“He’s getting better each time,” Huse said about Kloos. “He’s a big force there at d-end.”

With 1:13 left in the first half, Stencel found Linde on a 15-yard touchdown pass. A fake kick on the extra point failed.

On the ensuing possession, the Crusaders utilized a hurry-up offense to drive into the red zone. With 1.7 seconds left in the first half, Loyola quarterback Noah Rajtar connected with Sheldon Price, who made a full-extension leaping grab in the corner of the end zone on a fade route.

Kloos picked off the two-point conversion attempt, and the Rebels preserved a 14-12 halftime lead.

In the third quarter, the Crusaders took their first lead of the game, 18-14, on a 52-yard run. USC thwarted the extra point with a sack by Kloos.

The Rebels had a chance to recapture the lead after converting multiple first downs on quarterback keepers by Stencel. However, USC turned the ball over on downs at the Crusaders’ eight-yard line with 2:50 left in regulation.

After a defensive stand by the Rebels, Loyola was forced to punt from their own three-yard line and decided to intentionally take a safety.

The move paid off, as USC’s rally attempt on the last possession fell short.

Individual and team statistics were not available before press time.

The Rebels played Loyola each of the last four seasons and won the previous three matchups, including a 21-13 victory in 2014.

Next, USC will play Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton (1-1, 1-0 Mid Southeast-West District) at 7 p.m. Friday.

The Rebels won their opener 20-10 over Kingsland. The Bulldogs lost their opener 25-13 against Fillmore Central but are coming off a 41-28 win at Medford.