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NINE-MAN SEMIFINAL: South Ridge surges to final


November 1, 2019

Dan Saletel

The South Ridge Panthers take the field for Saturday night's matchup against the Hill City/Northland Storm in Culver.

South Ridge scored the last two touchdowns of the game and rode the strong running of Connor Bushbaum to a 24-16 win over Hill City/Northland in the Section 5 Nine-Man semifinals Saturday night in Culver.

Things started slow for the Panthers as the Storm scored early in the first on a five-yard pass from Cameron Wake to Jonathan Gowell. A two-point conversion run gave the Storm an 8-0 lead.

"It was a tight game, but I thought we moved the ball well in the first half," said Panthers coach Brent Johnson. "Turnovers in the first half and in the red zone killed us."

Before the first quarter ended, Bushbaum got the Panthers back to even on the scoreboard with a 28-yard touchdown run followed by a two-point conversion pass from Riley Kinsley to Aaron Bennett.

Vinny Ruschmeier gave the Storm the lead back late in the first quarter on a 1-yard touchdown plunge and a 16-8 lead.

Midway through the second the Panthers tied the score at 16 when Bushbaum added his second touchdown on a 1-yard run and tacked on the extra points.

The Panthers were able to move the ball throughout the second half, but it wasn't until late in the fourth quarter when Bushbaum scored his third touchdown of the game on a 7-yard run with Nick Larson adding the two-point conversion on a pass from Kinsley.

"Bushbaum's score at the end of the game was just a pitch sweep left and we knew he was running the ball well. He was able to get into the end zone and it was a great effort from our line and the backs," Johnson said. "I will say one thing. He isn't the biggest back on the field, but he is a patient runner and reads his blockers well."

Dan Saletel

Bushbaum, who also ran for 224 yards as well as his three touchdowns, was joined in a strong rushing game by Nick Larson, who ran for 76 yards, and Logan Young, who added 68 yards.

"Our running game has worked well for us this year with all of our backs - Logan Young, Nick Larson and fullback Matt Clark - getting the tough yards," Johnson said. "I thought the Storm ran the ball well in the first half, but we made a few adjustments and were able to shut them down."

South Ridge advances to the championship game of the Section 5 Nine-Man tournament against McGregor at 4:45 p.m. Friday in Esko. The Mercs defeated Isle 58-44 in the other semifinal game. Find more photos with this story at


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