The Maple Grove Crimson dominated the line of scrimmage for the better part of three quarters against Northstarfootballnews.com’s number one team in 6A Minnetonka. They took an eleven-point lead into the locker room and used back-to-back defensive touchdowns to give them a lead they would not give up. Behind an offensive line and a defense that nearly outscored the Skippers on their own, the Crimson walked off their home field with a 35-16 victory.
After the Skippers forced a punt on the first possession of the game, the Crimson’s front seven got to work. They put pressure on Minnetonka quarterback Aaron Syverson from the first possession and forced the Minnetonka offense backward.
“Our defensive line was much faster,” Crimson defensive lineman Archie Zogaa said. “Their offensive line just couldn’t handle it.”
Forcing a punt from inside the twenty, Maple Grove got the ball on the plus side of the fifty-yard line. The offensive line and running back Evan Hull took over from there. Four running plays – three of them to Hull – gave Maple Grove the first score of the game and a 7-0 lead.
Minnetonka missed the first of four sure touchdowns when Syverson overthrew an open receiver down the middle. They were still able to move the ball into Maple Grove’s territory, but the drive would stall in the red zone. The Skippers would get on the scoreboard with a field goal.
Maple Grove quarterback Nate Elmes used the play action pass game to move the offense out of their own end, and then Hull got loose behind the interior of the offensive line. The Crimson was facing a third and short at mid-field and facing nine defenders within five yards of the line of scrimmage, and Hull found a seam for his second touchdown of the game.
“We had the momentum on them,” Hull said. “We got them tired and took advantage of it.”
Two sacks by the Maple Grove front seven and a short punt set the Crimson up inside the Skippers’ 30-yard line. Benjamin Bristol, Joel Johnson, and Westyn Doubler – the interior of the Crimson offensive line – allowed Hull room right up the middle to set up a Hull six-yard touchdown run.
“They had a good week and have been working really hard,” Maple Grove head coach Matt Lombardi said of his guys in the trenches.
With the pressure, the defense was putting on Minnetonka’s offensive line, even when the front seven didn’t make the tackle they drew at least a half-dozen holding or illegal block penalties in the first half.
Minnetonka finally put together a solid drive and scored their first touchdown with less than a minute to go in the half.
Down 21-10 coming out of half-time, Minnetonka had momentum and the ball to start the second half. The half could not have started worse.
Maple Grove forced a fumble and Zogaa scooped up the ball and got down the sidelines for a touchdown.
“The ball got stripped,” Zogaa said. “I just picked it up and started running – scoop and score.”
With the defense right back out on the field defensive back Zane Mandle picked off a pass and returned it for a touchdown giving the Crimson two defensive touchdowns in two second-half Skippers’ possessions.
The Skippers’ defense would keep the team in the game as they would not allow another point, but the offense could not take advantage. Maple Grove’s defense was good, but the Skippers had three receivers open in the end zone, but two drops and one foot on the end line would add up to zero points scored.
The Skippers would add a touchdown in the second half but then Hull and the Crimson offensive line ground out first downs and put together a five-minute drive that would not end with points but would run out the clock and secure a 35-16 victory.
“We were working all week on our footwork. I think our footwork was the key for us tonight,” offensive lineman Jacob Crease said.
“We were all working together,” offensive lineman Mateo Baltazar said. “The first half we were confident coming out here. It doesn’t matter that they are bigger than us. We believed they would get tired.”
Maple Grove and Minnetonka both sport records of 2-1 after three games. Maple Grove remains home against Burnsville and Minnetonka goes back home to face Prior Lake.
Subscribers, look for more on this game in the next few days.