It was the football opener, but the start of Thursday’s tilt between Blaine and Stillwater felt more like a track meet.
Quick march down the field and score by one team, immediate response and repeat.
Eventually, though, Blaine’s high-powered aerial attack proved too much for Stillwater to keep up with.
Utilizing five touchdowns through the air, Blaine pulled away for a 53-28 rout over the host Ponies.
The Bengals opened the game pinned back at their own 11-yard line, yet quickly moved downfield.
Four first downs in six plays, the final a deep connection from Connor Melton to Marcus Giles, put the ball at the Stillwater 12.
Two keepers later by Melton, Blaine was in the end zone for its first score of the year.
After Stillwater answered to tie the game at 7-7, Blaine returned to work.
A 52-yard pass by Melton to Downey moved the Bengals quickly down the field, leading to a 7-yard touchdown pass from Downey to Byron Bynum Jr.
Stillwater again responded to level the game at 14-14 late in the first quarter, only for Blaine to strike on the first play of its next possession, an 80-yard play-action pass from Melton to Downey.
Both teams would add another touchdown in the second quarter, Blaine on a 48-yard pass from Downey to Melton, to give the Bengals a 28-21 halftime lead.
In the second half, the Bengals pulled away.
Four scores in a row pushed the gap to 53-21 before Stillwater finally managed a late fourth-quarter score to wrap up the action.
In all, Melton finished 16-of-24 passing for 400 yards and five scores, three to Bynum Jr. and a pair to Downey.
Alex Pekula led the Bengals on the ground with seven carries for 74 yards and a touchdown.
Tyler Osoki made 13 solo stops, recorded a sack and a forced fumble, Lucas Becker also made a sack and forced a fumble, Jason Kaul added a sack and Tony Strand intercepted a pass.
While Blaine was able to capitalize on several big plays the first week out, head coach Thomas Develice wants the team to also be prepared to move the ball methodically if those connections dry up.
“We have some things to get better at,” Develice said. “I think both offensively and defensively there are definitely some things we need to shore up, especially going into the St. Michael game this week. They’re a very good football team and we have to eliminate some of the mental mistakes we made against Stillwater.
“I was happy with our offensive performance. When you score that many points it’s hard to say you did things wrong – I do think we had some big plays, but as we start facing more and more of the teams we’re going to play, those big plays are going to be harder to come by.”
The emphasis was on the pass in the opener, but Blaine feels it can adapt when needed and churn out yards on the ground as well.
“We’re whatever the defense is going to give us,” Develice said. “We feel we have the weapons to run the ball with success, we feel we have the weapons to pass the ball with success. We’re not going to force ourselves to be one-dimensional. The first couple series of the game we’ll see what the defense is doing and that will figure it out for us. (Versus Stillwater) it was throwing. There are going to be other weeks it’s running.”
Coon Rapids falls just short
Coon Rapids fell just short in its opener, dropping a tight 24-17 contest in overtime at Chaska.
Chaska opened fast, building a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, but Coon Rapids battled back to tie the game 10-10 at halftime.
Coon Rapids took a 17-10 lead in the third quarter, but Chaska managed to tie the game back up in the fourth quarter, setting the stage for overtime.
Chaska got the ball first and quickly scored to go ahead 24-17.
The Cardinals had one last chance, but had a fourth down pass deflected at the goal line to end the game.
It was a tough opening weekend for the rest of the area teams as well.
On Thursday, Anoka fell 34-16 at Roseville and Spring Lake Park fell 35-0 at Irondale.
On Friday, St. Francis fell 16-6 versus Sauk Rapids-Rice and Andover fell 34-28 at Alexandria.
This week’s area games include: St. Michael-Albertville at Blaine; Robbinsdale Armstrong at Spring Lake Park; Rogers at Andover; Anoka at Champlin Park; Coon Rapids at Forest Lake; and St. Francis at Buffalo.