Cradle up to old tricks as Roughriders win

Bismarck Roughriders coach Collins Sanders looked more drained than most of his players after his team scored an unnecessarily close 39-37 victory over the game River City Renegades at the Civic Center Saturday night.

But Sanders wasn't as much exhausted as he was exasperated after watching the Roughriders come so close so often to squandering the first win in franchise history.

"We played so well at times but then we'd go and do something stupid," Sanders said.

Luckily for the Roughriders their thorough dominance of both sides of the line of scrimmage was enough to negate a slew of penalties and a completely ineffectual passing game.

Quentin Cradle was up to his old tricks. Looking like the MVP he was two years ago with the Bismarck Blaze, Cradle rumbled for 135 yards on 24 carries and scored a pair of TDs. He was ably assisted by Verna Owens (11 carries, 47 yards, 2 TDs) and lots of big holes courtesy of lineman Jamie Grismer, Andy Nelson and Grant Brinkman.

The defensive line was excellent as well. Anthony Bonner, Robert Gaines and Nikia Parson combined for five sacks and helped the Roughriders (1-1) limit River City to 116 yards of total offense. Seventy-two of those yards came on two long touchdown passes from Rick Little to Moses Regular. on the other 40 plays River City amassed just 40 yards.

So why wasn't the game a blowout? First, the play of River City kicker Dan O'Donnell. O'Donnell booted three field goals, from 45, 37 and 19 yards. River City coach John Busby had so much faith in O'Donnell that he let him attempt two kicks from his own end zone.

"Right now we live and die with that kid," Busby said.

Second, the Bismarck passing game was even worse than in a season-opening loss to Sioux Falls. Kirk Anderson completed just 3 of 10 passes for 17 yards.

Incompletions put an end to several promising drives.

Third, the Renegades, who were playing their first game with little practice time, were one resilient bunch.

O'Donnell set the tone for the game on the opening possession, when River City didn't move the ball an inch, but he booted a 45-yard field goal.

The Riders responded with a 21-yard run by Quentin Cradle that set up a 3-yard score by Verna Owens.

River City followed up with its only sustained drive of the game, culminating in a 7-yard pass from Rick Little to Jammian Weaver. Cradle then broke off another big run, a 32-yarder on an inside draw, then carried it in himself from 1 yard out for a 14-9 lead. By the end of the first quarter Bismarck had rolled up 65 yards on the ground, 62 by Cradle.

It was more of the same on the third possession.

This time it was Owens who rambled for 15 yards to get the Riders deep into River City territory. He later bounced outside for a 2-yard TD run, making it 20-9.

When the Roughriders tried to air it out, it only served to open the door for the Renegades to get back in the game.

River City sandwiched a pair of O'Donnell field goals around a 35-yard TD pass from Little to Regular. Busby agreed that River City was fortunate to trail just 23-22 at half.

The Roughriders got back to basics in the third quarter, and it worked. Bismarck ran the ball on nine of its first 10 offensive plays and put together two solid drives, the first resulting in a 5-yard score by Cradle, the second in a missed field goal.

A fumble and more errant passes killed two more promising drives. Finally it was up to the defense to crack the end zone.

Kyle Sires picked off a pass and returned it 12 yards for a touchdown with 1:55 to play, making the score 36-22 and seemingly salting the game away.

The Renegades would not quit.

On the next play from scrimmage Little hit Regular on another long pass. The massive 270-pound receiver shrugged off potential tacklers and turned the play into a 37-yard score.

Bismarck got a 25-yard field goal from Tyson Niewoehner with 29 seconds left, and that turned out to be necessary as well. Keith Turner returned the ensuing kick 54 yards for a score, making it 39-37 with 21.1 seconds to play.

But once Dustin Morgan recovered the ensuing onside kick, there was nothing more the Renegades could do, and nothing the Roughriders could do but breathe a sigh of relief at their escape.

"It just feels good to get a win," Cradle said.


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