For the first time this season, Spring Lake Park defensive coordinator Will Wackman brought doughnuts to help celebrate the Panthers defense’s share of a 52-0 shutout of St. Louis Park Oct. 16.
The Spring Lake Park staff celebrates a shutout with a tasty pastry to enjoy during a classroom film session during the week.
Spring Lake Park (9-1) ran through and around St. Louis Park en route to the Homecoming win Oct. 11 that also set the table for a wild conclusion to the North Suburban Conference in the final regular season game Oct. 16.
Panthers senior running backs Richie Toweh and Grant Walter helped the offense rack up 456 yards rushing and seven touchdowns with 10 different ballcarriers. Walter had 207 yards and two scores and Toweh had 123 yards and three scores. Each had seven carries.
“Richie and Grant are pretty fast dudes,” Panthers coach Jeff Schlieff said on the field after the game. “They break through the linebackers and can go.”
Toweh got things started with a 36-yard touchdown run less than four minutes into the game and Walters snapped off touchdown runs of 57 and 61 yards before the end of the first quarter. His 61-yard scamper went right through the heart of the Orioles defense thanks to key blocking by the offensive line.
Aaron Murphy stayed on his feet for a 70-yard punt return to make it 33-0 with 8:19 left in the second quarter and the winner wasn’t in question by that point in the game.
Panthers’ senior captain Ejodamen Ejiya contributed 62 yards on 10 carries and one touchdown while leading the defense with 18 tackles (12 solos).
Ejiya feels the team is coming together better than it was in the two losses to open the season.
“Those first two losses we took, we didn’t feel ready to play but since then we’ve felt better about playing as a team,” he said.
Wackman said the offensive production might not look the same on paper from Ejiya this season because of his defensive production. “He’s so important, with Richie, to what we do on defense,” he said. “They’re great guys to have at this level and will do well at the next level. They make you look really good.”
Toweh, a starting free safety had seven tackles (five solos).
Defensive Tackle Adam Klepsa had the lone sack plus three tackles before leaving the game in the second quarter with what appeared to be a left ankle injury.
“He’s a rock for us but someone else is going to have to step up,” Schlieff said.
Wackman echoed Schlieff’s thoughts and took it a step further, saying, “He’s our leader on the defensive line. He’s stepped into that role a junior and did that at Glencoe where we played without our four top defensive ends.”
Although the Panthers didn’t give up any points, Schlieff said little things remain to shore up like getting off the field.
“[St. Louis Park] converted some big third and fourth downs to keep drives going,” he said. “When we are playing for a championship next we need to get off the field on like third and 10 or fourth and five. We need to make that play and the longer we let them hang out there the more chances they have to score.”
Wackman said the key to a championship defense is knowing when to put up a brick wall and not allow the other team to penetrate it. “We didn’t have a three-and-out in the first half so that was a key during halftime but we have to get off the field,” he said.
The Panthers, ranked ninth in the state, knew that if they wanted a shot of winning the final NSC football championship, they needed to top St. Louis Park to earn the right to host Benilde-St. Margaret’s at Panthers Stadium Oct. 16.
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