No doubt Coon Rapids made progress over the off-season, but the result was still a loss against Totino-Grace, this time by way of a 23-12 score in Fridley Aug. 29.
The Eagles sputtered at the start as the Coon Rapids defense did its best to keep the visitors within reach thanks to a turnover-filled first half.
Cardinals coach Jon Young said the defense played well all night, but finishing tackles was a problem that emerged, especially as the game wore on in the second half.
“For our first game, the defense had some dominate drives,” he said. “We had a lot of new guys play really well and look for them to continue to improve each and every week.”
Coon Rapids linebacker Tyler Hipp disrupted one of the state’s top offenses early-on.
Hipp knocked down a pass at the line of scrimmage on Totino-Grace’s opening possession before stripping and recovering a fumble on the next play.
After the Eagles intercepted Coon Rapids’ first pass of the season off the fingertips of Tykeise Johnson, Hipp came through again, this time pouncing on a fumble after a mishandled lateral. The turnover gave the Cardinals the football on Totino-Grace’s 44-yard line, 2:30 into the game, but Coon Rapids could not move the ball.
The Cardinals defense wasn’t done when senior linebacker Matt Lerdahl recovered another fumble on the Eagles 10-yard line.
Coon Rapids’ offense couldn’t capitalize on the excellent field position and gave the ball back after an incomplete pass on fourth down.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” Young said. “Our defense caused four turnovers and we didn’t come away with any points.”
Missed reads, assignments and poor center/quarterback exchanges equated to absolutely nothing on the scoreboard. “That starting position is something you have to convert. Going up 7-0 would’ve been huge,” he said.
Totino-Grace responded with a big play from its offense with Kez Flomo going 41 yards on a run, but the Cardinals held. Flomo finished with 168 yards rushing on 15 carries with one touchdown. The team ran for 314 yards and three scores.
As time ran down in the opening quarter, Totino-Grace looked to break the scoreless quarter open and had the ball within 10 yards of the goal line.
Once again, the Cardinals defense made a big play. This time senior safety Andrew Clark knocked the ball loose, causing the fumble to roll into the end zone before being recovered by Coon Rapids.
Coon Rapids started the second quarter with the ball and the emotional momentum after not only preventing a score but returning the ball to the offense.
A couple plays later that momentum waned as receiver Taylor Croal fumbled a catch near midfield.
Both teams settled into a rhythm in the second half and Totino-Grace took a 23-0 into the third quarter. Croal scored twice on catches of 15 and 19 yards in the fourth quarter and finished the night with six catches for 109 yards.
Quarterback Austin Anda completed 13-of-25 passes for 129 yards with three interceptions. Running back Deshon Johnson had 23 carries for 99 yards.
Young said they expect Croal and Johnson to make plays and while Anda threw for a pair of scores: “Oftentimes quartebacks are remembered for their mistakes. He made one really bad decision the whole night. His reads were for the most part correct, albeit a little slow and some technical issues caused the ball to sail on him a bit which caused poor accuracy. Easy to fix and Austin will have a great game this week.”
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