Blaine 28, Anoka 6
In a game that appeared to be headed for a field-position battle, fans were treated to some big plays as the regular season drew to a close with rival Anoka (3-5) traveling to Blaine (5-3) Oct. 17.
Bengals junior quarterback Alex Copa ran for two long touchdowns in the first half and finished with 131 yards on 13 carries while throwing for another 75 yards, 41 of which came on a third-quarter touchdown throw to Zach Wylie, which came late in the third quarter to make it 21-0 for the home team.
Despite the one-sided score, Anoka was only outgained by 20 yards and doubled Blaine’s first downs (12-6), many coming on its 15-play fourth-quarter scoring drive.
The field-position battle early favored Anoka, who looked to grind it out for its best chance at a .500 regular season record.
“Good field position is something we haven’t had much of the year,” Anoka coach Jeff Buerkle said, one factor being the number of injuries at key positions, including the defensive line where the squad was down to two available linemen at one point. “We’ve got people playing in positions we shouldn’t but we have got to capitalize on the turnovers we get and we didn’t tonight,” he said.
Buerkle says the goal for each game is to get three turnovers because 90 percent of the time that equates to a win.
Blaine first-year head coach Tom Develice hopes the momentum from winning the final regular season home game rolls into sections and a possible state appearance.
“Our big thing was turnovers early on and we still have mental lapses on offense and defense in our execution, but overall the last four weeks our kids have played really hard, mistake-free football,” he said.
Blaine is 3-1 over the last four games, outscoring the opposition 122-22 in the three wins. The lone loss was a 28-27 score to Champlin Park. The Bengals held the other team to single digits four times.
Wednesday night Copa put the blue clad Bengals ahead 6-0 with nine seconds left in the first quarter on a 56-yard designed run round the right side of the offensive line. He made it 13-0 less than two minutes later going round the left side of the Bengals offensive line from 30 yards out. Blaine kicker Zach Wright went four-for-four on extra point kicks.
“[Copa] got away from us a couple times and we missed him,” Buerkle said. “If we get a lot of guys around him we could’ve contained him better but just like with [Champlin standout Michael] Sales, if he gets through [the defensive line and linebackers] he’s gone. He’s a great athlete.”
Meanwhile, Anoka couldn’t string together a scoring drive until that 15-play fourth quarter march that ended with Reid Lindsay bowling through the pile-up from three yards out to make it 21-6. The point after kick sailed under the crossbar.
Anoka had chances to put more points on the board, including an early fumble recovery after a booted snap sailed over Copa’s head on Blaine’s 43-yard line.
Blaine linebacker Stephen Newberger sacked Anoka quarterback Travis Bengston to stall the Tornadoes drive.
Anoka had another promising drive end two yards from the end zone just before halftime.
Blaine’s leading tackler, junior linebacker Caleb Butler stopped Anoka senior Kristian Manthey on fourth down to preserve the shutout.
Blaine’s leading running back, Kunle Ayinde finished the scoring with a touchdown from 35 yards out to make the final score 28-6 with 5:30 remaining in the contest.
Centennial 41, Coon Rapids 14
The Cardinals finished the regular season winless (0-8), averaging a Northwest Suburban Conference worst 46-11 scoring average. The last time the Cardinals had this poor of a record was 2004 with a 1-8 record.
Andover 33, Armstrong 14
Andover picked up its second in a row to finish the regular season 4-4 when running back Derek McLaughlin picked up 178 yards on the ground with three touchdowns and one fumble, while quarterback Connor Wilkie completed seven of 14 passes for 131 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
No. 2 Spring Lake Park 29, St. Francis 20
North Suburban Conference champion and No. 2 ranked (Class AAAAA) Spring Lake Park survived a scare at St. Francis Wednesday night to finish the regular season with a perfect 8-0 record.
Panthers standout running back Eji Ejiya scored three touchdowns on runs of 53, 59 and 22 yards to highlight what possibly was St. Francis’ final North Suburban Conference football game as it plans to move to a new conference next season.
Saints junior Max Gust ran the ball in from one yard out twice, including a fourth quarter score to make it 22-20, but the home squad couldn’t convert the two-point run which would have tied the game.