NEW ULM - Things couldn't have started much better for the New Ulm football team against Tracy-Milroy-Balaton on Saturday afternoon, with Eagles senior Isaiah Johnson breaking out of the gates with an 80-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage.
However, the Eagles went cold after taking a 20-18 lead at half time, falling to the Panthers by a 46-20 final score at Johnson Field.
Johnson's opening score was the first of his two touchdowns on the day, the second coming on an 11-yard run early in the second quarter.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
New Ulm running back Isaiah Johnson (34) fakes out Brian Fultz (2) of Tracy-Milroy-Balaton on his way to the end zone during the Eagles’ loss Saturday afternoon at Johnson Field in New Ulm.
"Everyone just did a great job of blocking and I just read what everybody did and I was able to capitalize on it," Johnson said.
The Eagles' defense held the TMB offense in check most of the first half, but the Panthers were able to keep pace every time New Ulm scored.
The visitors tied the game at 6-6 with a 55-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Parker Lanoue (12-for-19, 192 yards, five touchdowns) to Austin Gleis.
The Eagles took the lead again late in the first quarter when Grant Kannegiesser (four tackles, two fumbles caused, two pass break ups, sack) intercepted Lanoue and returned it all the way for a touchdown, but the Panthers tied the game again with 13 seconds left in the quarter on another touchdown pass from Lanoue to Gleis, this time from 11 yards out.
Johnson's second touchdown was followed by a two-point conversion pass from New Ulm quarterback Chris Mulder (4-for-12, 34 yards) to Blake Neumann to make the score 20-12.
The Eagles seemed in line to take their eight-point lead into half time, but Lanoue connected with Josh Kirk as time expired in the half for a six-yard touchdown to make the score 20-18 at the break.
"We started the game pretty well with a couple good drives and we were moving the ball, then defensively we didn't really end up stopping them," New Ulm head coach Tony Ortmann said. "They moved the ball pretty well, and from there it became just a shoot-out for a little bit.
Johnson (14 carries for 171 yards) and Jackson Yackley (14 carries for 85 yards) highlighted a strong running game by the Eagles in the first half, as New Ulm rushed for 222 yards before half time.
The second half was a completely different story for the Eagles' offense, though. New Ulm rushed for just 68 yards after the break, with Johnson limited to just seven yards.
While the Eagles' running game dropped off, Panthers running back Alec Swan got into a groove. After being held to 26 yards on 11 carries in the first half, Swan accumulated 160 yards on 20 carries in the second half, including two touchdown runs.
The Eagles' Tevin Mooter (eight solo tackles, four assists) recovered an on-side kick to begin the second half - the second time New Ulm was successful on an onside kick, the first happening somewhat unintentionally when Yackley picked up the ball after TMB's Sterling Schwartz had trouble handling a kick with a lot of side spin by Michael Dickinson - but New Ulm's ensuing drive resulted in a turnover on downs.
Lanoue connected with Brian Fultz for a 17-yard score on the Panthers' ensuing possession to give TMB its first lead at 24-20. The Panthers scored on their following two drives as well - both rushing touchdowns by Swan - to build a sizable 38-20 lead.
With 1:10 left in the third quarter, Mulder was knocked out of the game when he was hit while making a pass, which was intercepted by TMB's Rickie Jorgenson.
New Ulm backup quarterback Blake Piotter intentionally ran back for a safety on New Ulm's next possession in a desperation attempt to stay in the game, but the Eagles failed on an onside kick attempt, after which Lanoue connected with Swan for a 20-yard passing touchdown five plays later to ice the game.
"They pulled ahead and we tried to pass the ball a little bit more, it's something that we're struggling at right now, especially when Chris Mulder went down, so it's something we've got to get back to work on," Ortmann said.
Bryan Dewanz had six solo tackles, four assists and a sack for the Eagles. Yackley had six tackles, two assists and a pass breakup.
Among the leading factors in New Ulm's second-half struggles was its weak tackling, which at times allowed Lanoue enough time to find open receivers for big gains.
"We've been working on tackling for weeks now, and it showed that we need to keep working on tackling," Johnson said. "We need to keep tackling and we need to keep blocking."
The Eagles (0-3) will host Blue Earth Area at 7 p.m. on Friday at Johnson Field.
"They're a very well-coached team, they're playing really well at the beginning of the year," Ortmann said. "We're definitely going to have to go to work this week and get ready to play them."