By Bob San
Jack Wallick rushed for over 200 yards and scored two touchdowns to spark Maple Grove to a 28-25 win over Elk River last Friday. The win improves the Crimson to 2-1 for the season.
Crimson coach Matt Lombardi knew his team would be severely tested by an Elk River team that gave Blaine fits the week before.
“They are a team that will sneak up on people,” Lombardi said. “They are a very unique team that will present a lot of challenge for people. Their offense is not like anybody else. It’s tough to follow the ball. They do a great job of hiding the ball and it’s hard on the defense.”
The Crimson tried their best to keep the ball out of Elk River’s offense and they managed to do that behind a superb rushing performance. Maple Grove’s running attack was in high gear as it pounded out 334 yards. Wallick was the workhorse as he picked up 201 yards on 17 carries. Brian Yasosky ran 10 times for 63 yards. The Crimson completed only two passes on the night, but with their running game working, they were able to hold off the Elks.
“We ran the ball a lot,” Lombardi said. “Part of it too is we tried to keep Elk River off the field because they run the ball so well. We tried to sustain our drives as much as we could. Our line really stepped up and our backs ran really hard. I think it worked out really well for us.”
Elk River took a 7-0 lead early but the Crimson responded with a 35-yard touchdown pass from Blake Skaja to Jake Wieneke midway in the first quarter. Wieneke missed the Osseo game with an injury but returned to action even though he was not 100 percent.
“Jake was probably about 80-90 percent but I was proud of him,” Lombardi said. “He battled through it. He made a big catch to get us a touchdown. That was big.”
MG’s defense forced an Elk River punt, and Wallick put MG ahead on the first play from scrimmage when he broke loose for an 80-yard touchdown run for a 14-7 lead.
After a scoreless second period, the teams treated the fans with a back-and-forth second half.
The Elks pulled within 14-10 with a 20-yard field goal early in the third quarter. Maple Grove responded with a 7-yard touchdown from Brycen Wojta to up the lead to 21-10 with 8:26 left in the quarter.
But Elk River came right back with a long touchdown march to close the gap to 21-18 with 3:26 left in the third.
The Crimson opened the final quarter with a 12-play, 73-yard touchdown march that used up 6 1/2 minutes. Wallick had five carries for 30 yards on the drive and Tyler Field provided a key play when he bolted for a 28-yard run on fourth and long. Field almost scored but just stepped out of bound at the 10. On the next play, Wallick scored his second touchdown of the night to make it 28-18.
“I think on fourth-and-17 we surprised them,” Lombardi said of Field’s big run. “Tyler is a very good athlete. He is the starting safety and sometimes we use him on offense. We just saw an opening there and we decided to go for it. He made a great move and almost scored.”
But the Elks would not go away and came right back with a touchdown with 2:35 left to play. The Crimson wanted to deny Elk River’s offense a last possession and with the line blocking superbly, they picked up two big first downs to run out the clock. Wallick had an 11-yard run and Wojta broke for a 12-yard scamper to seal the victory.
“Jack had 201 yards. Any time you get 200 yards is a cool experience,” Lombardi said. “He ran pretty hard and so did Brian. The two of them had about 270 yards.”
While the backs get the glory, Lombardi emphasized that the offensive line of center Dylan Berg, guards Mitch Engel and Kam Garlick and tackles Trey Nehowig and Erik Olson were the stars of the game.
“The line was super all night,” Lombardi said. “We were trying to get better from week to week. We made a couple moves after the Osseo game and I think that helped us. They were beginning to click.”
The Crimson face another tough test when they travel to Blaine Friday, Sept. 21.