Blaine spoils Cardinals homecoming with topsy-turvy second quarter

Blaine put two losses behind it while spoiling Coon Rapids’ Homecoming game 41-14 Sept. 27.

Cardinals Stadium was hopping with a rabid student section proud to share their Cardinal Nation pride throughout the deceptively one-side score.

Coon Rapids senior Dakota Forness leads the Cardinals football team onto the field before Friday's Homecoming game. Photo by Jason Olson
Coon Rapids senior Dakota Forness leads the Cardinals football team onto the field before Friday’s Homecoming game. Photo by Jason Olson

The game was much closer than the score indicated as Blaine made the most of its chances to score and Coon Rapids had a handful of plays break the wrong way.

The teams combined for 31 points in the second quarter and Blaine led 31-14 at the half.

“They kept their chins up and I’m proud of them tonight,” Bengals coach Tom Develice said, admitting there are plenty of holes in all three aspects of their game. “Anytime you can come away with a win in this conference it’s good.”

Coon Rapids senior receiver Alex Boxwell had quite the night with 252 yards and two touchdowns.

Credit Boxwell for accepting the positive stats and taking at least some of the blame for the defeat.

Coon Rapids linebacker Will Elliot (33) tackles Blaine quarterback Alex Boxwell after throwing a pass during the first quarter of Friday's game. Photo by Jason Olson
Coon Rapids linebacker Will Elliot (33) tackles Blaine quarterback Alex Boxwell after throwing a pass during the first quarter of Friday’s game. Photo by Jason Olson

“The scoreboard shows that our defense didn’t play really well,” Boxwell said. “But the issue was that we put our defense in terrible spots and had a couple of kicks blocked and our defense really didn’t play bad at all. The offense just didn’t make many plays.”

Blaine capitalized early on the first of two short punts by senior Boxwell. Bengals running back Nate Kroutil capped a 37-yard drive with a two-yard touchdown run to show that they could move the ball for chunks across the ground.

“[Kroutil]’s a special kid. He’s a good back and when you have him and Alex {Copa} in the backfield together. That’s kind of why we went to the spread,” Develice said. “And now they have to defend both [pass and run].”

Blaine’s next offensive possession spanned one play when quarterback Alex Copa found Zach Wylie on a 58-yard touchdown pass to make it 14-0 less than six minutes into the contest.

Just when it looked like Coon Rapids would respond with a score, the Bengals blocked a Cardinals field goal attempt. The deflected ball came to a rest on the three-yard line where Wylie scooped it up and rumbled 97 yards down the Bengals sideline with a massive convoy of teammates protecting him the entire way to make it 21-0, 18 seconds into the second quarter.

The play was eerily similar to a play from the previous week when Maple Grove attempted to return a punt near the goal line. That play was called back since the Blaine player stepped into the end zone with the ball.

Blaine linebacker Caleb Butler (57) tackles Coon Rapids running back Deshon Johnson (22) Friday. Photo by Jason Olson
Blaine linebacker Caleb Butler (57) tackles Coon Rapids running back Deshon Johnson (22) Friday. Photo by Jason Olson

There was no question about Wylie’s touchdown.

“We talked about it all the time at practice how sometimes kids can overlook it, but it’s so crucial to the game and it’s something we have to practice and take it seriously,” Develice said.

Once again, Coon Rapids wasn’t going down without a fight. Cardinals quarterback Austin Anda hit Boxwell as he streaked past the Bengals secondary on the first play of the drive, 80 yards for a touchdown.

The Anda-to-Boxwell connection hooked up 3:56 later, again on the first play of a drive. This time, Boxwell went 54 yards for the score and turned on the afterburners to outrun the Bengals over the final 35 yards to make it 21-14.

Coon Rapids senior linebacker Charlie Pope recovered a fumble on Blaine’s 46-yard line on one of many big plays to continue to turn the emotional momentum of the game back toward the home red and white.

With 3:15 left, an efficient offensive drive from the Cardinals would keep them within striking distance of the lead, if not take it over with a score and two-point conversion. Instead, the Cardinals gave the ball back to the Bengals on their own 30-yard line.

“Yeah,” Coon Rapids coach Jon Young said about the big plays by Boxwell. “But we’re inconsistent as a team though.”

Kroutil made the Cardinals pay with his second score of the half, this time on a 49-yard scamper up the left side with 36.1 seconds left. Coon Rapids was flagged for 12 men on the field, but the penalty was declined and the touchdown stood. Blaine led 28-14.

Bengals linebacker Caleb Butler recovered a fumble on the Coon Rapids 43-yard line with 8.1 seconds left and kicker Mitch Boege made a 31-yard field goal on the final play of the half after a Coon Rapids defensive back was flagged for pass interference as time expired.

Young described the 17-point swing in the final 40 seconds of the first half as “absolutely nightmarish,” followed by a halftime message about football I.Q. and discipline.

Coon Rapids played without receiver Taylor Croal, who learned one day before the game that his season is over after fracturing a vertebrae in his neck during the previous week. “It kills us,” Young said. “I think we have the best three-receiver set in the conference. The things they did in the second half stopped Alex and Tykeise, Taylor would’ve been a great option to have in there.”

Boxwell said the loss of Croal goes deep. “He’s another big body and he’s going to be missed, but other people will get a chance to step-up,” Boxwell said.

Develice said not seeing Croal’s No. 87 jersey during warm-ups caught him by surprise.

“Our coaches did a great job of making adjustments during the game and at half time,” Develice said. That change included an extra defensive back roaming deep, he said.

Blaine opened the second half with the ball and Kroutil slashed through the Cardinals defense for 32 yards on the first play before Copa eventually punted the ball down to Coon Rapids’ eight-yard line.

Things only got worse for the Cardinals as Boxwell’s punt from the back of his end zone was blocked by Blaine’s Logan Nelson and recovered by Stephen Newberger in the end zone for a touchdown. After the extra point, Blaine led 38-14.

An early whistle on the ensuing kick return blew dead what could’ve been a long kick return for the Cardinals. Jordan Rayford appeared to be stopped by the Blaine coverage team, but he lateraled the ball to Johnson as a referee blew his whistle to stop the play.

Looking back on the Cardinals fourth loss of the season, Boxwell said the result was frustrating, but at the same time, “you look at it like we have a shot to win every week too. If we just tighten up the screws a little bit we can beat anybody it seems like.”

Next week the Cardinals head to Goodrich Field to face Anoka on its Homecoming night. Blaine returns home to face Champlin Park Oct. 4.


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