Football: Lourdes overpowers Pine Island

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PINE ISLAND — The first word that came to Josh Navratil's mind was intensity.

Intensity, the Pine Island junior running back/linebacker said, is what helped the Panthers to a four-game winning streak midway through the season, including a 14-9 victory over then-fourth-ranked Stewartville.

In Wednesday's Week 8 matchup with Rochester Lourdes, it took a while before Pine Island ratcheted up the intensity. And the Eagles took advantage by accounting for the game's first five scores in a 31-15 victory over the Panthers in Southeast Red District play.

"We didn't come out with that intensity that we needed," Navratil said. "They came hard and we couldn't match their speed."

Right away, Lourdes' option attack sliced through Pine Island's defense with an 11-play, 60-yard drive on its first possession that culminated in a 5-yard touchdown run by quarterback Matthew Hayford.

The Eagles tacked on two more scores in the second quarter thanks to Pat Leary, who had touchdown runs of 50 and 1 yard in the frame on the way to a 16-carry, 130-yard night.

"(Leary) was physical. Hats off to Lourdes for taking it to us," said Pine Island head coach John Stapleton. "Part of that was the option. You have to do your job and guys didn't do their job (on defense)."

The Panthers had three second-quarter drives get into Lourdes territory, but did not result in points. And the passing game struggled to get going as Keegan Majerus was 8 of 21 passing for 73 yards and three interceptions by Matthew Bowers, Jimmy Fritzjunker and Trey Billmeier.

"I think we threw more interceptions tonight than we have all season," Stapleton said. "We were out of sync."

Lourdes (6-2) scored two more times in the third quarter, with Hayford connecting with Julian Bretton for an 18-yard touchdown at the 9-minute, 4-second mark. Then with 39 seconds left in the third, Ben Limburg booted a 27-yard field goal to put the Eagles ahead 31-0.

"I'm kind of at a loss for words," Stapleton said. "I thought we'd have a better performance. Now we need to regroup and go into the playoffs more prepared."

With Lourdes' reserves in, Navratil reeled off a 26-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter for the Panthers' first score. Navratil had 103 yards on 16 carries while also having a team-high 24 receiving yards on two catches. With 1:03 to play and both JVs in, Travis Eitel punched in Pine Island's final score on a 1-yard run.

Finishing the year at 4-4 overall and 4-3 in the Red, the Panthers got the fourth seed in the Section 1AAA tournament and will be back at home next Tuesday against fifth-seeded Zumbrota-Mazeppa (3-5).

"The boys put themselves in position for a home game. They worked hard," Stapleton said. "We don't want the seniors to have their last home game here on Tuesday. We're going to have to give a better effort on Tuesday."

And that effort begins with the intensity Navratil preached.

"We're going to need intensity and preparation," he said. "I cannot stress that enough."