One week after Coon Rapids senior receiver Alex Boxwell set a new school receiving yards record (212), he didn’t catch a pass against Anoka (1-5) in a 13-10 win that spoiled the Tornadoes Homecoming game at Goodrich Field Oct. 4.
But Boxwell was still involved in the offense by motioning across the offensive line or taking hand-offs around the edge for 23 yards.
Cardinals coach Jon Young and his staff found ways to keep the team’s leading receiver involved in the game, despite Anoka’s determination to limit his production.
“Alex sets the record last week and Anoka [did a] great job, totally took him out of the game and dared us to run,” Young said. “But he had some huge runs to the perimeter to set things up inside.”
Tight end Jeremy Becker had four catches for 36 yards and one touchdown to lead the Cardinals receivers.
Becker’s six-yard touchdown catch seemed to turn the momentum back to the visitors despite still trailing 10-7.
Anoka’s offense sustained a few drives in the second quarter, despite untimely penalties and other mistakes.
Tornadoes kicker Travis Mashuga made a 40-yard field goal for the first points of the contest.
Anoka quarterback Travis Bengston ran the ball around the left side for 22 yards before Rivera bowled his way through the Cardinals defense on runs of eight and seven yards to set up his touchdown run from four yards out to make it 10-0.
Mashuga got under a second field goal attempt from near the same spot on the field as time expired in the first half. The 39-yard attempt dropped five yards short of the crossbar, foreshadowing the Tornadoes’ second half.
Despite the second quarter success, Anoka couldn’t find the end zone in the second half.
Anoka coach Jeff Buerkle said the Homecoming loss was tough to swallow, “It is [tough to take],” he said. “Stupid things like we’ve done all year.”
“Penalties, interceptions, stupid things after the play, undisciplined. Very frustrating. Stuff we try to work on all the time, try to practice it, try to teach it and then it doesn’t show up. Looks like you’ve never looked at it.”
Anoka continued to pile up penalty yardage and a week after collecting 135 yards against Centennial, the Tornadoes added 125 yards while the offense generated 237 yards total offense, compared with Coon Rapids’ 154 yards offense.
Seventy-five of the Cardinals’ yards came on the opening drive of the second half which culminated with Becker’s catch from Austin Anda for a touchdown.
Becker had a 21-yard catch and run up the middle of the field on a third-down play at midfield to sustain the drive.
He seems to be filling the role of lead tight end nicely after the Cardinals lost Taylor Croal for the rest of the season after a neck injury two weeks ago.
“Unsung hero. It was his turn to step up and he did,” Young said of Becker’s contribution. “He’s our fourth option and they defended Boxwell and Tykeise Johnson and had eyes on [Deshon Johnson] so he could slip behind the linebacker and as soon as we hit a couple of those we gave it to Deshon and it’s totally a cat and mouse game.”
Deshon led the Cardinals with 54 yards rushing, while Tykeise had two carries for 24 yards and two catches for 21 yards.
Anoka’s defensive penalties continued on the next Cardinals possession with three fouls including illegal use of the hands, a personal foul on a hit on Anda on third down and encroachment.
Coon Rapids scored the go-ahead touchdown on a one-yard plunge by fullback Will Elliot with 6:47 left. The score nearly didn’t happen because it appeared Coon Rapids had fumbled the ball which rolled into the end zone and looked like it was recovered by an Anoka player. Instead of Anoka’s ball at the 20-yard line, the Tornadoes were called for too many men on the field. Two Anoka players couldn’t reach the sideline before Anda hiked the ball.
Anoka’s Jason Putnam took another untimely personal foul penalty to set up a first down from Anoka’s 14-yard line and the eventual game-winning touchdown.
Tykeise made a sliding catch at the Anoka 39-yard line, just beyond the first down marker earlier in the drive to keep it going while the string of bad luck continued for Anoka.
Coon Rapids was driving later in the quarter before Anoka defensive back Steven Barthold held onto an interception on the Tornadoes 16-yard line with 1:30 left in the third quarter.
The play seemed to shift momentum back to the home team – for a few moments as least.
Bengston returned the favor early in the fourth quarter as senior defensive back Dorbor Cooper picked off the Tornadoes quarterback with 9:44 left.
“That interception was huge and we continue to do stuff like that week after week,” Buerkle said.
After some anxious moments on both sidelines, Cooper made his second interception of the game to put the game on ice with 43.9 seconds remaining when Tornadoes running back Connor Nikolaus rolled to his right on a halfback pass but missed his target.
“It was nice to see us execute things we practice all week,” Young said.
“It wasn’t ideal conditions or situation to throw it but maybe a kid makes a mental error and our guy gets behind him,” Buerkle said. “With the clock running down we didn’t have any time outs and when you’re getting three-four yards at a time and need to get  it’s tough.”
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