Friday, September 6th was a beautiful night in Minneapolis. Backdropped against a cream and blue sky imprinted with clouds and tints of orange and pink, two of Minneapolis’ 2019 heavy hitters battled against each other in a marquee Twin City conference matchup. Highlighted by Kare11’s Randy Shaver as his game of the week, the Minneapolis matchup between the North Polars and the Southwest Lakers was a game with a tremendous amount of athleticism peppered with flags and offensive woes. North did a tremendous job containing Laker stud and NDSU commit TK Marshall (5’11,190), who ran for 108 yards off 8 attempts, and came through with some big plays that proved to be the difference in the 20-7 Polar victory.
The first quarter was a defensive battle in which both teams struggled to get anything going offensively. It wasn’t until junior SS/LB Dominic McMillian (6’3, 206) picked off an errant out-route by Southwest’s QB, and easily took the pick 28 yards to the end zone to put 6 on the board for the Polars. After a successful extra point by Rio Sanders, the North defense looked to stop the Laker offense from answering McMillan’s score. They were unsuccessful however, as Southwest‘s Nick Flaskamp (5’11, 190) took a fullback dive up the heart of the Polar defense and ran it for a 63-yard touchdown virtually untouched. Prior to the play, I could hear North’s coaches screaming at the safety to adjust, yet their yells went unheard, as Flaskamp ran right past the defensive backfield on his way to the end zone. Flaskamp, a junior, finished the day with 75 yards rushing off of 5 attempts, while adding 17 total tackles from his ILB spot. In the second quarter, North’s running back Terrance Kamara (5’9, 175) began to take over. The junior Champlain Park transfer looked like the most impressive player on the field all night. A very patient runner, Kamara would continually use his vision and patience to find the exact right hole in the defense, bursting through it with power and explosiveness that would get him to the second level almost every time. With great cutting ability and moves, Kamara consistently made the first man miss, and would always finish his runs behind his pads, running over and trucking Southwest defenders on multiple occasions. After struggling to get going in the passing game, North began running the rock, and was rewarded with a 5-yard TD run by Kamara for the only score of the 2nd quarter. A good punt return by Flaskamp brought the Lakers close to some points, but they just could not finish the drive. It remained 13-7 at half, and the Polars looked to maintain their defensive suffocation, hoping to make the Lakers throw the ball to convert long 3rd downs.
The 2nd half was a slow affair that was laden with flags and failed offensive drives. With Southwest kicking the ball off to begin the 3rd quarter, the Polars began to go back to their inside run game, and Kamara was up again for the challenge. He looked like he was getting stronger as the game went on, but North could not put an entire drive together, and didn’t score at all in the 3rd. Meanwhile, Southwest found themselves in the red zone twice that quarter, once off of a fumble recovery after a mismanaged North handoff, and another time after a long drive aided by a personal foul and PI’s from the North defense. After the turnover by North, Southwest began to drive and found themselves nearing 3rd down from the Polar 30. A deep throw on a fade was picked off by #6 for North in the end zone, and ended that drive for Southwest. On the long Laker drive, TK Marshall took a handoff 25 yards down to the Polar five yard line, but flags brought them back outside the 20 and the Lakers could not capitalize. The score remained 13-7 at the end of the 3rd quarter.
The 4th quarter was exciting, yet Southwest could not put together enough of a passing game to make themselves two dimensional and find the end zone. Despite a great drive deep in the 4th quarter with the score still 13-7, Southwest’s QB Will Chopin great throw on a fade hit off the hands of the intended Laker receiver, and their best chance at a touchdown was foiled then and there. Kamara made two big plays at the end of the game as well, this time on the defensive side of the ball. A great tackle that resulted in a TFL and a huge hit that broke up a pass were two big plays to thwart Southwest’s momentum, and the Lakers could just not get anything going despite the strong and powerful running of TK Marshall. With 3:45 left in the game, Rio Sanders made two huge back-to-back plays, the first of which being a catch on a curl route that he spun out two defenders on for a first down, and the second of which was a jet sweep that went for a 50-yard touchdown, to make the score 20-7 and put the game out of reach. Despite the flags, the game had some incredibly exciting moments, and North is without a doubt my choice for the AA state title this year. They have some incredibly dynamic playmakers, and if they can become a little more consistent in the passing game, they should be hard to beat. Southwest is also still in good shape. Despite this tough loss to North, Marshall and Flaskamp are a dynamic duo in the backfield as well as on defense, but also need to work on not being so one dimensional and getting some receivers open. They are a good team, and have a lot of time to figure themselves out. It was a great game in Southwest Minneapolis.