Spring Lake Park had to regroup quickly after its five-game winning streak was snapped in a 31-28 regular season finale loss to Benilde-St. Margaret’s at Panthers Stadium Oct. 16.
The North Suburban Conference will fold at the end of the school year, giving Benilde-St. Margaret’s the final conference football title. Spring Lake Park has won the championship several times.
The Panthers finished with a 3-2 record, tied with Fridley and Irondale behind Benilde’s 4-1 record.
Spring Lake Park allowed a season-high 31 points and trailed 17-14 at the half after Benilde’s Samuel Lynch returned a kick-off 85 yards for a touchdown.
Spring Lake Park’s rushing attack responded with a pair of touchdowns by Richie Toweh and Grant Walter on runs of 48 and 13 yards, respectively.
After driving the field for a three-yard touchdown in the second quarter, the Red Knights ended the half with a 32-yard field goal to take the one-score lead into the break.
Walter returned the kick-off favor in the second half with an 81-yard return of his own for Spring Lake Park to retake the lead 21-17.
But Benilde senior quarterback Keaton Studsrud threw for a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns, including a 62-yard catch-and-run by Lynch, for a 31-21 lead. Panthers senior captain Eji Ejiya scored from 14 yards out to cut the lead to within one score, 31-28.
Ejiya led the Panthers with 188 yards on 17 carries. Walter had 88 yards on 18 carries and Toweh gave the offense a three-headed attack with 70 yards on nine carries.
Ejiya, a starting linebacker alongside Toweh and Walter on defense, had a team-high 19 tackles and two sacks. Antonio Zepada had 11 tackles and Panthers kicker Danny Chelbeck went four for four on extra point attempts.
Spring Lake Park received the No. 4 seed in Section 4AAAAA and hosted No. 5 Robbinsdale Cooper Oct. 22. The winner traveled to top seed Mahtomedi Oct. 25.
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