Cardinals thrill in home opener win

One week after Coon Rapids turned some heads in a tough opening game loss at Totino-Grace, it was the Cardinals’ turn to end their losing ways.

Coon Rapids (1-1) scored its first win in nearly two years beating Park Center 23-7 in the home opener to end a 10-game losing streak.

Coon Rapids running back Deshon Johnson, middle, braces for a tackle by two Park Center players during the Cardinals home opening win, 23-7, Sept. 6. Photo by Jason Olson

Coon Rapids running back Deshon Johnson, middle, braces for a tackle by two Park Center players during the Cardinals home opening win, 23-7, Sept. 6. Photo by Jason Olson

Cardinals coach Jon Young said the team was ready to go nearly two hours before kickoff. “The whole team was ready to go from the start,” he said. “[We were] very excited to play in front of our home crowd. We’re relieved [for the first win] but a bit frustrated because we could have played better.”

The previous win also came against Park Center, 47-0 on Oct. 14, 2011. The Cardinals followed that with a 23-15 win over favored Andover to close out the regular season. A trip to Andover awaits the Cardinals for a week three match-up.

That enthusiasm for a strong start will be needed to contain Andover, which not only has one of the most potent offenses in the metro, but is a solid all-around team that will expose any flaws.

A major key to the Cardinals win against Park Center was the play of running back Deshon Johnson to gain 169 yards and score two touchdowns in leading the offense. Johnson’s ability to shake free from tacklers throughout the contest impressed Young, who said Johnson’s conditioning is phenomenal.

“Our offensive line did a good job getting him to the second level and our receivers were good on fakes to keep their secondary honest,” Young said.

Coon Rapids' Tykeise Johnson, left, evades a Park Center tackler during Friday's game at Coon Rapids. Photo by Bill Jones

Coon Rapids’ Tykeise Johnson, left, evades a Park Center tackler during Friday’s game at Coon Rapids. Photo by Bill Jones

Last year’s starting quarterback Alex Boxwell returned to the field after missing the opener to pursue a baseball commitment with Team USA, but not as quarterback.

Coon Rapids quarterback Austin Anda found Boxwell on a 24-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter to make it 16-7. Boxwell also had two carries for 28 yards.

“Boxwell is one the better athletes in the school,” Young said. “He is talented in a lot of ways and we are still trying to figure out more ways to get him the ball. We want him to throw, run and catch in every game and sometimes in the same series.”

Look for Boxwell to continue to shift around the offense.

On the other side of the ball, the defense limited the Pirates to one big play, a 74-yard reception in the second quarter. Young was happy with the play by the defense, which besides the one big play allowed won the field position game.

Coon Rapids dedicated the evening to alumna Shawn Silvera, who was killed in the line of duty while serving with the Lino Lakes Police Department.

Jason Olson is at
jason.olson@ecm-inc.com

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