Grind it out

VELVA – Sometimes, it’s not the performance that matters.

Bishop Ryan retained its Copper Bowl title Thursday with a 13-0 win over Velva, but the performance which led to the victory left plenty to be desired.

The Lions were guilty of four turnovers against the Aggies, including three second-half fumbles. But the Ryan defense held Velva to a shutout for the second straight year, handing coach Zach Rudolph his first career win as a head coach.

It also allowed Ryan to hold onto the Penny Trophy for another year.

“I was impressed with how our guys overcame adversity,” Rudolph said. “And credit to Velva, because they did a great job trying to force turnovers. They’re a good football team, and it was a hard-fought game. I’m just proud of our kids for sticking to the game plan and finishing out on top.”

Despite its struggles late in the game, Ryan got off to a flying start. A 12-play, 68-yard opening drive provided the game’s first points, capped by a 14-yard connection between quarterback Tanner Sanders and wide receiver Eli Kramer.

The Kramer-to-Sanders combination struck again early in the second quarter.

After the Lions forced a Velva turnover deep in Aggies territory, Sanders found Kramer in the end zone again for a 9-yard score.

Two offensive possessions, two touchdowns.

But the Velva defense tightened up for the remainder of the game.

“We were defeated, but at the same time we’ve gotta find a way to take positives out of it,” Velva coach Larry Sandy said. “It was a hard-fought battle, and we didn’t allow any more points after their two big pass plays. To our credit, they never broke through big time, but I’m not sure how the stats are gonna turn out but they put some yards up on us.”

Sanders finished the game 8-of-13 from the pocket for 65 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Kramer caught five of those passes for 56 yards.

In the second half, with the Aggies unable to generate anything offensively, the Lions turned to their ground attack.

Cole Dauphinais led the way in that respect. He carried the ball 11 times for 68 yards, 44 of which came in the fourth quarter.

Ryan’s offense wasn’t as clean as Rudolph would have liked to see, but he was quick to accept a portion of the blame.

“I’ve gotta do a better job of putting the kids in better situations,” he said. “But I’ll get better at that. That won’t happen again.”

The Aggies stayed in the game until the end. With the clock winding down in the fourth quarter, they had a chance to make it even more interesting.

After punting the ball away, Ryan returner Kramer fumbled his catch. The loose ball was picked up by junior Shad Vedaa, which set Velva up at the Ryan 34-yard line with still more than 5 minutes to play.

But Velva’s joy was short lived. On the very next play, running back Kobe Bright was tackled in the backfield. He fumbled his second of the game and the Lions recovered to all but drench The Aggies’ hopes of a comeback.

Velva committed three turnovers in the loss.

“They made the plays that they needed to, and we didn’t,” Sandy said. “It seemed at times that if they weren’t stopping us, we were stopping ourselves. That’s a double-edged sword, and it didn’t work very well for us.”

Joe Mellenbruch covers high school sports and

general assignments.

Follow him on Twitter @Mellenbruch_MDN.