Blaine (4-2) overcame five turnovers and quarterback Alex Copa ran for 235 yards and two touchdowns including a four-yard run in overtime as the Bengals topped Champlin Park 21-14 Oct. 4.
Bengals coach Tom Develice credited the defense for standing tall and not caving in after the turnovers.
“Credit our defense for hanging in there and playing tough all night and not hanging their heads,” he said. “They won the ball game for us. The group really came through for us, guys were flying around the competing hard.”
Champlin Park (2-4) scored twice in the second quarter three minutes and 42 seconds apart, first on a 10-yard pass from Max Biegert to Marty Hill. Running back Jusias Kalis scored from five yards out to build a 14-0 lead, but that wasn’t enough as it lost for the second time in a row after Centennial posted a 35-12 victory Sept. 27.
Copa responded for the Bengals 1:11 later with a 65-yard touchdown on a quarterback keeper up the sideline for the score.
Bengals running back Nate Kroutil broke off a 69-yard run up the middle of the field 49 seconds into the second half to tie the game at 14-14.
That score stood throughout the rest of the half and into Blaine’s first offensive possession of overtime. Copa broke through the Rebels defensive line and into the end zone from three yards out for the decisive play of the game.
Champlin Park began overtime with the ball and Blaine’s defense came up with a huge defensive stand on a fourth-and-one play in the shadow of the goal line.
“[The defense] did awesome to get the ball back on offense,” Develice said. “We have a reliable kicker even though he missed [a kick] early on so we had three plays to get it done and [Copa] did on third down.”
The plan to run the ball wasn’t just a way to limit the turnovers because of the wet conditions, but Develice said the coaching staff noticed the Rebels aggressive blitzing scheme and thought they could exploit that. “If we had a chance to make our blocks and get to the second level we knew we might have success and we did,” he said. “All week we talked about ball security and obviously that didn’t work so well but we wanted to keep the clock running and didn’t want to put our defense in a bad spot. We wanted to move the ball and if we had to punt we would and force teams to have to go deep on our defense.”
Develice said the staff noticed Champlin Park middle linebacker Jack Darnell and defensive back Dillon Cox weren’t on the video from the previous weeks and caught the Bengals staff off-guard. “[Darnell] was their middle linebacker and really good, he blitzed all over and [Cox] was fast and made plays all over the field. Those guys really made a difference in their defense,” Develice said.
Blaine was coming off a season-high win 41-14 against Coon Rapids last week and finish the regular season at Centennial Oct. 11 and at Anoka for the annual Pumpkin Bowl Oct. 16.
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