Before the 2017 season began, Roland-Story coach Aaron Stensland said his offense may need a few weeks before all of its kinks were ironed out and its players and coaches could figure out what their strengths and weaknesses would be.
There have been signs that the first-time starters were beginning to figure things out: Ben Chelsvig and Jacob Pitman have both run for more than 200 yards in a game already, and quarterback Tyler Risdal has gotten progressively better with his timing and accuracy.
The team thinks like last week’s 600-yard performance in a blowout win over East Marshall was the turning point for them, and that confidence bled into Friday’s 42-14 victory at Saydel.
The Norsemen’s offense rolled against the Eagles, producing more than 400 yards of offense once again. And that was on a night in which Roland-Story (3-2) rarely strayed from its basic playbook once the game was in hand.
“Last week is probably what jump-started it for us, with that win at East Marshall where we ran for 400 and threw for 200,” Stensland said. “I think this is a little bit of a continuation from that. We didn’t open up (the offense) quite as much, just because, you saw those first couple of drives, we were able to dominate up front.”
The Norsemen looked like they could do whatever they wanted against a Saydel team that had just one loss coming into the game.
Chelsvig ran for 181 yards and two scores Friday.
Risdal was 5 of 9 passing for 114 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for 44 and another score, too.
Roland-Story’s offense never punted, it had zero turnovers and it produced six touchdowns even though four other drives ended inside Saydel’s 25-yard line.
“We’ve really focused on simple things, working on the basics again and picking up that sort of stuff,” Chelsvig said. “It’s all just sort of starting to come together now.”
Roland-Story needed only five plays to get into the end zone on its opening drive.
Chelsvig carried the ball on four of those plays, all but one for going for double-digit yardage. His final carry of the series — a 29-yard burst up the middle — ended with him celebrating in the end zone, and Nick Stole’s point after made it 7-0.
After forcing Saydel to punt after three plays, the Norsemen would quickly add to their lead.
A 39-yard run by Chelsvig set up a short touchdown run by Derek Staker four plays later, and even though the point-after attempt failed, that score gave Roland-Story a two-score lead with three and a half minutes still to play in the first quarter.
The Norsemen had opportunities to extend that lead on their next two drives, but they couldn’t convert fourth down situations deep in Eagle territory on both occasions. Saydel’s offense didn’t do much with either opportunity, and, following a pair of punts, the Norsemen took over at the Saydel 33.
A 29-yard touchdown run by Risdal was negated by a holding penalty, but on third-and-22, Risdal threw a screen pass to Pitman in the right flat, and Pitman followed two of his linemen 45 yards into the end zone.
Chelsvig ran in the two-point conversion, giving the Norsemen a 21-0 lead at halftime.
Although that lead seemed like it may hold up against a Saydel offense that had yet to move the ball consistently against Roland-Story’s defense Friday, the Norsemen realized they could have put the Eagles away much earlier.
“We just kind of got sloppy,” Stensland said. “You’ve got to play up to your level no matter what your competition is doing, and we dipped at times tonight. That was probably the only thing that was frustrating. Other than that, solid win.”
They missed another opportunity to open the second half, too.
Chelsvig took a handoff on the first play of the third quarter and ran 54 yards before being dragged down at Saydel’s 11-yard line. But the Norsemen turned the ball over on downs at the goal line, the third of four drives that ended inside the opponent’s 25 Friday.
Risdal, though, capitalized on that field position on Roland-Story’s next possession, scoring on a nine-yard run to finish a drive that began at Saydel’s 32-yard line.
The Eagle answered with their first extended drive of the night, scoring on a 36-yard run by quarterback TJ Stephenson. But that score was quickly erased when Zach Twedt returned the ensuing kickoff 79 yards before stepping out of bounds near Saydel’s goal line on the final play of the third quarter.
Chelsvig scored on a short run three plays later, and Stole’s kick made it 35-7 to begin the fourth.
Risdal also threw a 35-yard touchdown strike to Austin Hobbs, starting a running clock.
“We feel like we’re on a good roll right now,” Chelsvig said. “The offense and the defense are clicking right now. We’re just going to keep taking one game at a time and trying to improve.”
Roland-Story 42, Saydel 14
Roland-Story 13 8 7 14 — 42
Saydel 0 0 7 7 — 14
Roland-Story — Ben Chelsvig 29 run (Nick Stole kick), 8:05
Roland-Story — Derek Staker 2 run (kick failed), 3:33
Roland-Story — Jacob Pitman 45 pass from Tyler Risdal (Chelsvig run), 1:16
Roland-Story — Risdal 9 run (Stole kick), 4:47
Saydel — TJ Stephenson 36 run (Craig Garrison kick), 0:45
Roland-Story — Chelsvig 3 run (Stole kick), 11:24
Roland-Story — Austin Hobbs 35 pass from Risdal (Stole kick), 8:24
Saydel — Chase McClure 3 run (Garrison kick), 3:29