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Loyal wins to advance to final playoff round

With Loyal fielding a football team devoid of a handful of usual starters for its Nov. 13 WIAA Division 6 home playoff game against Independence/Gilmanton, it turned to a senior leader to carry the team to a 20-0 first-round win. Matthew Szymanski responded with a 275-yard rushing night and three touchdows as the Greyhounds earned the chance to play one more time this season.

Loyal is now scheduled to play at Pepin/Alma at 7 p.m. on Thursday night, Nov. 19. Pepin/Alma is 6-2 on the season and advanced with a forfeit win last week.

Loyal head coach Chris Lindner said his squad was without 6-7 players who have started games this seasonfor the contest against Independence-Gilmanton. That forced the Greyhounds to simplify the game plan and rely on its proven ground game. Kaiden Hagen took over at quarterback, but did not throw a pass.

Szymanski ran 37 times on the night for his 275 yards. His first touchdown, on a 5-yard run early in the second quarter, put Loyal ahead 6-0.

That score stood until there was 3:38 left in the third period, when Szymanski scored again on a 52-yard run. Hagen’s conversion run came up short and Loyal led 12-0.

The defense pitched in early in the fourth quarter as Brody Miller sacked Independence-Gilmanton quarterback Chris Killian in the end zone for the safety. Szymanski put on the finishing touches with a 6-yard run with 3:52 left in the game.

Lindner said some younger players, some of them seeing their first varsity action, filled in well to help Loyal to the win.

“We had some younger players that stepped up and played well,” he said. “I think our kids played well. They were a little hesitant on the first drive. As the game went on I think our guys got more confident and actually played well throughout the game. We got stronger as the game went on.”

Lindner said the plan was to spread the rushing load more evenly between Szymanski and Sullivan Hanson, but Loyal ended up going with the hot hand.

“He (Szymanski) ran the ball pretty well. We blocked pretty well also,” Lindner said. “He was working so that’s what we went with.”

Loyal’s defense allowed only 34 total yards of offense. Independence-Gilmanton threw the ball 18 times, with five completions for 21 yards. Their ground game produced only 13 net yards on the night.