This late into the post season it is rare to see one team dominate another as dramatically as Prior Lake dominated Blaine. The Lakers overpowered the Bengals on both sides of the line of scrimmage. The three headed running back monster the Lakers can run at opponents took advantage of the physical play. Although Blaine has some explosive offensive weapons Prior Lake had a plan on defense and had the athletes to carry it out.
With so many great performances I know I will miss some, but here are some of the guys I felt stood out.
Running back Jordan Johnson seemed to be the Lakers best pure runner. He was fast enough to get the edge on sweeps but ran inside the tackles effectively – once for a touchdown He made a nice cut on a first down run behind Sam Bangasser and Logan Olander. Later on a 4th and 8 he showed his quick feet in the hole. He made a series of quick cuts to get to the second level and pick up the first down.
Running back Preston Jelen was also an effective runner –especially on a 4th and four. He not only picked up the first down but he used his speed to get to the goal line. Jelen might be the most complete back in the Lakers’ backfield – he can catch the ball too. He caught an out, turned it up field, and broke a tackle for a big gain. Later he caught an over the shoulder pass from Colin O’Connor on a wheel route, and used speed for a 36-yard touchdown.
Spencer Shaver didn’t have a many splashy plays but on a sweep around the end, he showed his speed for a 43-yard gain.
“We all stayed sharp and focused all week,” Johnson said. “We stuck to our game plan. Our blocking got better as the game went on. The offense really exploded tonight.”
Tight end Hunter Koening caught a touchdown pass but his main role was helping the running backs get to the edge on the multiple runs to the outside.
O’Connor didn’t have to throw many passes, but when he did he was on the money. Most of his throws came off play action and were placed in spots where the receivers could catch the ball on the move. He threw three short touchdown passes in the game.
The best unit on the field offensively was the offensive line. They wore down the Bengals’ front seven and despite many eight men in the box situations consistently opened up running lanes.
In addition to Bangasser and Olander Calvin Sund and Zachary Dubay opened big holes for the runners. They also were perfect in pass protection – not giving up a sack or even much pressure.
“The schedule we play prepares us for games like this,” head coach Matt Gegenheimer – whose team’s regular season schedule included Eden Prairie, Minnetonka and Maple Grove, said. “We like to feel like we play a physical brand of football.”
The Lakers even excelled changing from offense to defense. Kicker Danny Wee put two kicks into the end zone for touchbacks.
After giving up a big play and a touchdown the first drive of the game the Lakers’ defense was nearly perfect.
Playing nose tackle in the Lakers’ base 3-4 defense Zachary Whaley was a key component to the defenses’ plan. It was clear early Blaine’s plan was to run the ball inside in order to set up plays on the perimeter but in the second quarter the Bengals modified their offensive plan and stopped running at Whaley. The big man took up blockers but also was able to get penetration into the backfield.
“I think I played pretty well,” Whaley said. “I think I forced them pass and run outside more than they wanted to. They couldn’t run up the middle at all.”
Add in the solid play of defensive ends Jarrod Henderson and Ryder Folsom the line made things much simpler on the linebackers and defensive backs.
“In my eyes they are the number one defense in the state,” Johnson said. “They played like it tonight. We feed off them and they feed off us.”
Linebackers Noah Benson and Zachary Wick both made impacts in the running and passing games. Benson put pressure on the quarterback multiple times. Wick made a tackle for a short gain and later he forced the quarterback into a bad throw on a blitz.
Blaine had won games by overwhelming opponents with their skill position players. Prior Lake’s defensive backs made sure that didn’t happen on their home field.
In addition to solid coverage against Blaine’s explosive receivers Dylan Bair made a pair of open field tackles at corner. One of his best moments was on a swing pass where he had to fight off a block and make the tackle.
All four primary defensive backs – Jordan Olson, Derek Kay, and Jaden Dorn – like Bair – took away Blaine’s athletic ability. Coverage downfield was tight and when a receiver was able to get free for a completion the secondary made up for it by making tackles and limiting the run after catch opportunities.
“We read our keys and were able to latch on to someone”, Olson said. “We read our zones and read the quarterback’s eyes.“
Prior Lake’s 49-14 victory set up a rematch against Minnetonka next week.