As the regular season winds down, football teams across Anoka County are setting their sights on strong finishes or finding positives to highlight for the players returning next season.
Blaine squeaks out win
After a nice 3-0 start to the season, Blaine had lost two close games to Champlin Park and Totino-Grace. The home crowd at Blaine High School on Oct. 7 got behind a strong Bengals defense that totalled 83 tackles, three sacks and one interception in a 14-6 defeat of the Anoka Tornadoes.
“I felt we played pretty well. It was a pretty competitive game,” said Anoka Coach Jeff Buerkle. He said injuries and some costly turnovers and penalties made the different.
The Bengals scored its only points in the second quarter on two seven-yard touchdown runs. This came after Anoka defensive backs Trevor Hernandez and Jack Hetrick were injured.
Hernandez injured his knee in the first quarter on a play that could have cost Anoka some points. Buerkle said Hernadez had recovered a fumble from a Blaine player on a punt return and was two yards from scoring a touchdown before he was hit and fumbled the ball that a Bengal recovered.
The Tornadoes got a third quarter passing touchdown of 30 yards from Jared Wilber to Ryan Wesp, which was followed by a missed extra point kick. Buerkle bemoaned the fact that Wesp almost scored another long touchdown at the end of the game, but a penalty of not enough men at the line of scrimmage canceled out the play.
Buerkle said the Pumpkin Bowl is a special game for the players. They love the look of the black uniforms only worn for this game and the activities that take place during the game. This is also Anoka’s “Tackle Cancer” game. The players will be donning pink gear. Between the first and second quarters, hats will be passed around the crowd to collect money for cancer research.
Shea Gerrety wrapped up the most Tornadoes of any Bengals playing, totalling 19 tackles. But Max Bautch and Austin Hale also had double-digit tackles with 13 and 10 respectively. Austin Olson had two of the three sacks for the Bengals and added eight tackles to his stat line. Sam Gerrety had the lone interception for Blaine.
On offense, Blaine running back Chase Harper finished with an impressive stat line of 24 rushes for 108 yards and one touchdown. Quarterback Connor Melton had the other seven-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. In the passing game, he finished 10 of 25 for 144 yards. He threw one interception.
Blaine is now 4-2 and finishes the season against a 2-4 Andover team and a 1-5 Osseo team.
Anoka will try to shake off a close loss as it prepares for the Pumpkin Bowl game on Oct. 14 against 4-2 Champlin Park.
Andover quarterback went to the air and ground game to defeat Coon Rapids 40-7 on Oct. 7. The Huskies defense almost had a shutout, but Tyler George threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Sunnell with 47 seconds remaining.
The Andover defense racked up 59 tackles, five sacks, one forced fumble and two interceptions. There was not one defensive star, but a group effort. The leading tackler with six tackles was Wyatt Reiman, but five other players tied for second with five tackles each.
Five different players each recorded one sack and two different players intercepted a pass from Coon Rapids.
On offense, Andover quarterback Connor Knoepfke completed 10 of 13 passes for 107 yards and three touchdowns. All three of these scores went to wide receiver Vince Clark, who caught four balls for 64 yards.
Andover running back Carsen Syke finished with 14 carries for 117 yards and one touchdown.
The Cardinals played two different quarterbacks and both struggled with each completing half of their 16 pass attempts. Jake VanHulzen threw two interceptions. Wide receiver Carter Geyer caught eight passes for 62 yards.
“There really wasn’t much to be positive about after that game,” said Coon Rapids Coach Greg Malling. “The players know when they are being lied to, so we don’t. Instead we focused on areas we could easily get better at and looked at small steps we could take this week.”
Andover, 2-4, wraps up its season against a pair of teams that are now 4-2. Blaine is on the schedule Oct. 14 and Champlin Park is the last game of the regular season on Oct. 19.
Malling is in his first year of coaching the Cardinals after coming to Coon Rapids from Hartland Arrowhead High School, where he led the team to four state championship games in five years and state titles in 2012 and 2013.
He will try to lead Coon Rapids to its first win against Osseo (1-5) on Oct. 14 or Totino-Grace (6-0) on Oct. 19.
“I am really failing right now to convey the sense of urgency that it takes to be a good football player,” Malling said. “I’m still working with the players and the staff on ways we can get this across, but that seems to be our biggest issue.”
Spring Lake Park wins big
The Spring Lake Park Panthers continued their domination, blanking Robbinsdale-Armstrong 48-0 last Friday night, Oct. 7.
Five different Panthers rushed for a total of six touchdowns. Quarterback Zachary Ojile scored two of the touchdowns and rushed for 78 yards. The rushing attack did so well that he only needed to attempt two passes, completing one for seven yards to Kelvin Kuria.
Anthony Fleischfresser was the leading rusher for Spring Lake Park, finishing with 23 rushes for 121 yards and adding one touchdown.
The defense that shut down Robbinsdale-Armstrong totalled 66 tackles and four sacks. The leading tacklers were Nick Robinson and Cade McMahon with 12 and 10 tackles respectively. Sam Symynkywicz had the most sacks with two.
Spring Lake Park remains undefeated through six games. It faces Benilde-St. Margaret’s School (5-1) Oct. 14 and Robbinsdale-Cooper (6-0) on Oct. 19.