Trailing for most of the game, Spring Lake Park rode its defense in the first half and offense in the second half to hold off Irondale in the Section 5AAAAA semifinals. Here are some of the individual Panthers who stood out in the team’s 26-17 victory.
Linebacker Teshaun Pate was strong on the outside making a tackle for a loss. Later he would do it again – helping to keep the strong Irondale rushing attack contained. He scraped across the formation to get involved with a run between the tackles stopping the runner for a short gain.
Cornerback Derric Bergman came up strong on the outside to make an open field tackle on a short pass into the flat. He would later come up strong in run support to – again in space – pull down the running back. The senior would not make the tackle the next time the Knights ran to his side, but he held the edge and forced the runner back inside where his teammates could make a tackle. Late in the game, he came up strong in coverage and batted away a pass in the flat.
Safety Sam Fritz also made an impact from the secondary. He prevented a big run to the outside coming up on run support. He would even get his hands on a pass late in the game and bat the ball harmlessly into the ground.
When defending a passing game as solid as Irondale, everyone in the secondary would need to contribute. Joey Sorenson did just that coming up and making a tackle for a short gain. Blake Remme – who is not usually a defensive back – ended Irondale’s final threat with an interception and tap dance on the sidelines to stay inbounds.
In addition to keeping one of the top running backs in check most of the game, linebacker Cyrinus George made a pair of huge plays. First, he stuffed a run on the goal line and then he came up with a fumble recovery to get the momentum back for his team.
Defensive tackle Blake Holm was a problem for the interior of the Irondale offensive line all afternoon. He made a pair of tackles for short gains early in the game and again flashed in the second half with another series of disruptive plays for the senior.
Although the offense moved the ball well most of the game, they only started to put things together in the second half.
The Panthers’ main offensive weapon was running back Bergman. He got loose around the end and then gashed the Knights’ defense off tackle. He used his speed to take an option pitch and get the corner for a 70-yard run. It would set up a Panthers’ touchdown. Along with his offensive line, Niko Reimann threw a key block on the corner to spring his running back. When his offense faced a fourth and short late in the game, Bergman ran behind Sam Britz and Jacob Ward to pick up the key first down.
“We knew as a sophomore when (Bergman) played he was dynamic,” Panthers’ head coach John Stewart said. “He played outside linebacker on that team. Then he blew out his knee, and we didn’t have him as a junior. We knew if he could come back full speed that he could make plays and be a workhorse for us.”
If it wasn’t Bergman taking the pitch or handoff, it was Brian Orellana. The Panthers went to Orellana on a third and long. He used his speed to get the corner and pick up a critical first down. He made another big play behind Marvin Lamin, taking a pitch from Panthers’ quarterback Zack Dunbar.
Dunbar was the point man of the offense. On almost every play he decides to either give the ball to the back or keep it for himself. Nearly every time he made the right decision.
“He means a lot to us,” Bergman told northstarfootballnews.com, “He is reading all the time, and I trust him with the ball all the time.”
“I think my strength is being able to run inside,” Dunbar said. “Our running backs are good running outside, and I bring a different running style when I run inside.”
The Panthers’ offense ran behind junior tackle Lamin when the hard yards were needed. He did a great job setting the edge on many of the option plays. He was a physical presence along the Panthers’ offensive line.
Contained in the first half, in the second half, the entire offensive line controlled the game. In addition to Britz, Ward, and Lamin, Eric Amundson and Max Horn played on the Knights’ side of the line of scrimmage allowing the running game to excel.
The victory moved Spring Lake Park to a record of 7-2. They will go on the road to play Robbinsdale Cooper on Friday night.