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Woodbury football: Homecoming redemption for Royals

Woodbury linebacker Stefan Swenson reacts after recording a sack Friday in the Royals' 41-13 win over Forest Lake. Bulletin photo by Mike Longaecker

Last year’s homecoming game was a turning point for Woodbury.

The team was trounced in front of the home crowd and lingered in a resulting funk until much later in the season.

The Royals made sure on Friday that if this year’s homecoming game was going to leave an impression, it would be a positive one. Woodbury took control early and overcame a long stretch of penalties to earn a convincing 41-13 win at home against a Forest Lake team that Royals receiver Reid Peters said was much tougher than the 0-3 record the visitors brought to the game.

“This is no team to mess around with,” said Peters, who also served as the 2013 homecoming king.

He called the win “unreal,” saying that the momentum that it generates – after two straight blowout losses – can’t be overstated.

Woodbury head coach Andy Hill agreed the win comes at a critical point in the season, with games against fellow Suburban East Conference opponents Park and Hastings up next on the schedule.

“That was a big win for us,” he said.

Senior running back John McNiff got things going in the first quarter with a rushing touchdown from five yards out.

Woodbury was rolling again after forcing the Ranger into a three-and-out, but McNiff coughed up the ball – his first fumble of the season – on the Forest Lake 37 yard line.

The Royals’ defense remained stingy, however, and forced the Rangers to punt again following a Stefan Swenson sack.

The punt rolled into the end zone, putting Woodbury on its own 20 yard line. That was all the room senior running back Nick Yan needed. He burst around the left corner on the way to an 80-yard touchdown that put Woodbury up 14-0.

A series of fumbles between both teams made for a bumpy end to the first quarter and Forest Lake made Woodbury pay for its miscue seven seconds into the second frame on a 28-yard touchdown pass.

The first half closed with Woodbury up 21-7, courtesy of a 22-yard touchdown run by sophomore Woodbury quarterback Brady Mundahl.

The Royals – who honored the 1998 state championship team during halftime ceremonies – stomped on the accelerator early in the second half.

Sophomore Joe Puglisi picked off Forest Lake quarterback Payton Zeidler and the Royals made the Rangers pay on the other side of the ball.

Mundahl floated a picture-perfect touchdown pass to Peters in the end zone for a 24-yard score that put Woodbury up 27-7.

Forest Lake wasn’t through, however. The Rangers pounded the ball up the field on the ensuing possession and found paydirt that narrowed the score at 27-13.

The Rangers never narrowed the gap after that.

Woodbury, beset by a series of offensive penalties, found itself in a fourth-and-11 situation. Mundahl found Peters with a bullet down the right side of the field that yielded a critical first down, which led to McNiff’s second rushing touchdown of the night.

Yan put things out of reach later in the third quarter on a seven-yard scamper to the end zone and gave Woodbury a 41-13 lead that stood until the final horn.

“We made some mistakes,” Hill told players after the game, “but we overcame them.”

The Royals improved to 2-3 on the season (2-3 SEC) with the win and face District 833 rival Park next Friday.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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