BY ROB LAPLANTE
The scenario didn’t look good heading into Friday’s showdown with new Mississippi 8 rival Duluth East. But a fired up St. Michael-Albertville football team earned its first win of the season with a 43-6 blowout of the Greyhounds.
STMA was coming off a shutout loss in week one. They also were the beneficiary of being the honorary visiting team to open the gates in Duluth East’s brand new Ordean Stadium.
“The stadium was amazing,” said STMA second-year head coach Jared Essler. “It’s one of the best we’ve ever been to. It had a great surface. There were people tailgating, our guys were into the music before the game and it was a really cool environment.”
With both Duluth Denfeld and Duluth East joining the Mississippi 8 this season, the matchup had a bit of an unknown. Both teams were facing each other for the first time and right from the get-go, the team that came out flying, were the visitors from STMA.
After the Greyhounds fumbled the opening kickoff, senior running back Ryan Lyzhoft took the opening play 26 yards for a rushing touchdown. Soon after, the Knights again would find the back of the end zone when senior quarterback Cole Krutzig and senior tight end Tyler Dallum connected for a 47-yard passing TD.
“To score 10 seconds into the game and come back with another score on our second series definitely gave us the spark and momentum we were looking for,” Essler said.
After a bad snap, senior defensive lineman Austin Brouillette picked up one of his two sacks on Duluth East quarterback Alex Toscano late in the first quarter, giving the Knights a 16-0 advantage.
Special teams again would come up huge in the second quarter for STMA. After the safety, junior wide receiver Dallas Freeman on the ensuing punt would give the Knights a 23-0 lead, scoring on a 63-yard punt return.
It was only the beginning for Freeman, who sat out most of week one due to mononucleosis. In the fourth quarter he would score his second TD of the game, this time taking an 87-yard kickoff return to the house.
“The first one, all the defenders went to the middle of the field and I used my blockers to go down the side,” Freeman said. “The kickoff, they kicked it to the side and I got a block from Andrew Winans and the middle was open and just took off. It was for sure my best game of my career.”
Squeezed in between the two big special teams scores was Krutzig’s second passing TD of the game, this time connecting with a 4-yard pass to senior wide receiver Tony Bork.
The defense again was stellar for STMA. After holding Cambridge-Isanti to just eight points a week ago, they held down a Greyhound offense that registered a 27-7 win at Grand Rapids the week before. The only hiccup came in the second quarter when Duluth East running back Brian Lansing broke free for a 48-yard TD run. It made the score 23-6, but STMA responded scoring 20 unanswered points earning its first victory of the season (1-1 overall).
“We were upset after the first game and went into this one more focused,” Freeman said. “It was different playing Duluth East. We didn’t know any of their guys, but we played with a lot of energy and enthusiasm and we went up there and got stuff done.”
Senior linebacker Erik Johnson led the defense with nine tackles (four solo), Also, with four solo tackles were senior’s Bennie Wilson and Broulliette. Junior Joe Kilian and sophomore Tyler Berg also had four. Freeman scored two TD’s on special teams and also had one interception.
Krutzig led the offense, completing six of 10 passes for 69 yards and two TD’s. He also had 65 yards rushing.
“Cole played really well,” Essler said. “He was accurate when he threw the ball and he was able to rush the ball. He was a good dual threat and that’s what we need him to be.”
The Knights return home Friday with a 7 p.m. matchup with the Big Lake Hornets (0-2 overall).
STMA all-conference running back and senior captain Ryan Lyzhoft was injured in Friday’s 43-6 victory at Duluth East. The injury occurred to his leg during a rushing play early in the second quarter.
Tests for a broken leg came away negative. Tuesday he had an MRI to see if there was possible damage to his “unhappy triad,” otherwise known as a tear of the ACL, MCL or meniscus muscle in the knee area.
Lyzhoft had rushed for 52 yards on four carries, highlighted by his 26-yard TD run prior to the injury. Junior Chris Kartes and sophomore Noah Evans filled in for the injured Lyzhoft at running back. Evans eventually scored the last TD of the game on a 13-yard run late in the third quarter.
“They stepped in and got some carries and did pretty well,” Essler said.