After a 2-0 start, Blaine (2-2) dropped its second game in a row when Maple Grove (4-0) spoiled Blaine’s Homecoming 31-7 Sept. 20.
Crimson junior running back Clark Wieneke ran for 182 yards and four touchdowns on runs of 49, 6, 26 and 25 yards in his first full game since a shoulder injury opening week.
“It’s great to get to 4-0 and knock off a good team like Blaine,” he said after rushing for 100 yards and one score against Elk River in one half after missing week two against Hopkins.
“Week three he played about a half so it was good to see him get a chance to play again,” Crimson coach Matt Lombardi said.
“They’re not going to like the Wieneke name.”
Wieneke’s brother Jake Wieneke had a big game (13 catches for 174 yards and one score) against Blaine last year.
Wieneke was complemented nicely by senior running back Tahi Nomane, who rushed for 71 yards on 12 carries (5.9 yards per carry) and had a handful of large gains. Nomane came into the game averaging 11.5 yards per carry (586 yards on 51 attempts and six touchdowns) after spelling Wienke.
“We knew that [rushing attack] was their strength and I thought we did well in the first half, until they had a couple big runs before [halftime],” Blaine coach Tom Develice said.
Compounding the trouble were injuries along the defensive line to starters Alec Kalbow and Brandon Schumacher. Schumacher went to the hospital with an arm injury Kalbow was on crutches in the second half with a leg injury.
Develice felt his team competed much harder than the second half against Osseo (outscored 56-0). “I didn’t see them hanging their heads for any length of time, but we still had too many mistakes; penalties, turnovers, missed tackles, coverage breakdowns,” he said.
Lombardi said the way Osseo scored so quick in a span of minutes didn’t give them any extra insight to Blaine. “It was more of an emotional experience for Blaine,” he said. “We knew Blaine would come out here ready to play.”
Seeing how the points were scored instead of just the final score helped keep the Crimson focused, knowing the Bengals would put up a fight.
While Wieneke bit off large chunks of yards, the Bengals offense struggled to sustain drives against an aggressive Crimson defense.
Blaine was out gained by 114 yards, continued to pile up penalties (eight for 75 yards) but recovered four of five fumbles in wet and cool conditions that made gaining much momentum tricky at best.
“They’re going to play cover-two [defense] and come at you and blitz a lot and that’s what they did,” Develice said.
To combat the aggressive play calls, Blaine decided to run straight ahead to counter the pressure and it worked at times but not enough to sustain drives. “We just had some breakdowns tonight,” Develice said.
Six different ball carriers combined for 98 yards, averaging 2.1 yards per carry. Quarterback Alex Copa was held to nine yards on 23 carries and running back Nate Kroutil ran for 99 yards on 19 carries.
Copa completed 11-of-24 passes for 150 yards with one interception that was returned 43 yards for a touchdown by lineman Theo Freier to open the scoring.
The previous Bengals series ended almost equally as bad. Copa tried to pin the Crimson near its end zone on a punt and receiver Zach Wylie nearly downed the ball within the one yard line, but a bobble carried him into the end zone. In the course of the play, it appeared Wylie managed to drop the ball before he stepped into the end zone. Alertly, two Crimson players picked up the loose ball as it sat on the three-yard line and sprinted down the sideline in front of the Maple Grove bench for what looked like a 97-yard touchdown. After a brief meeting the referees decided the right call was a touchback.
“There was no whistle and it’s a free play until it is touched so I’m proud of the heads up play,” Lombardi said. “We made the refs make the call, which is probably was the right call.”
On that drive, Blaine intercepted Crimson quarterback Karl Altenburg to stall a promising drive on the Bengals 24-yard line.
The Maple Grove pick-six came on the next play.
Blaine’s lone score came with 1:42 left in the third quarter a couple plays after Kroutil converted a tough fourth-down and two-yard play to set up the 32-yard touchdown pass to Josh Browne.
The sophomore slipped past the Crimson linebackers and Copa hit him on a crossing route to his left where he beat the defenders to the end zone for the score.
Not allowing Blaine to gain any more momentum was key for Lombardi, who was impressed by the offense’s ability to sustain lengthy drives in the fourth quarter and put the game out of reach.
“For us, the last two drives when you get four, five, six, seven yards at a time, that’s what we want to do and play hard defense but we have a long way to go,” he said.
Blaine will be the Homecoming opponent for Coon Rapids next week, Sept. 27.
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