by Bob San
No team in the Northwest Suburban Conference football has had more success than Blaine. So when the Maple Grove Crimson defeated the visiting Bengal 20-6 last Friday, it marked Maple Grove’s biggest win under second-year coach Matt Lombardi.
“Blaine is a great program and has a great reputation,” Lombardi said. “They’ve been to the Dome and have won state championships. They’ve done things that we want to do. So our kids are really happy to beat a team like that.”
The Crimson did so in a convincing fashion. After a tight first half, they blew the game open by taking a 20-0 lead. The defense had a strong game and came out with big plays. The Crimson intercepted three passes and recovered a fumble.
“Our defense has been getting better every week,” Lombardi said. “They’ve been playing well 90 percent of the time in all the games, and then they’d make some major mistakes. In this game, they cut down on the major mistakes and came up with some big plays.”
Senior wide receiver Jake Wieneke sparked the offense when he had a school-record 13 catches for 174 yards and scored one touchdown. Quarterback Blake Skaja was red hot as he completed 20 of 28 passes for 214 yards with one TD and zero interception.
“Our offense did a good job of moving the ball, getting the first downs and keeping the chain moving,” Lombardi said. “Blake had a good game and we had a good running game so we had a good combination on offense. Jake is almost 100 percent now and he is a big threat because of his size.”
The Crimson held a 3-0 lead after a hard fought first half. A 24-yard field goal by Brycen Wojta was the only scoring.
The Crimson defense came up with the big play to spark Maple Grove in the second half. Blaine attempted a pass on third and four play at its own 21 but Crimson linebacker Emmanual Ehrich intercepted and returned the ball to the Blaine 16.
Maple Grove converted on the turnover. Skaja passed to Wieneke for a 10-yard gain. On second and four, Skaja found Wieneke for a 4-yard touchdown and a 10-0 lead.
The Crimson defense continued to hold Blaine at bay and the offense drove close enough for Wojta to kick a 39-yard field goal to increase the lead to 13-0 after three quarters.
Maple Grove broke it open with an 11-play, 52-yard touchdown drive to start the fourth quarter. Big plays in the drive included a 13-yard pass from Skaja to Wieneke, an 11-yard pass from Skaja to Wojta on third and nine, and a 27-yard pass play from Skaja to Wojta on second and 18 to bring the ball to the Blaine 3.
On the next play, Jack Wallick bulled his way into the end zone for a touchdown and 20-0 lead.
Blaine scored on a touchdown pass but could not get any closer as interceptions by Grant Perdew and Peder Olson sealed the win.
Wieneke had his school-record 13 catches and Wojta added 35 yards on 6 receptions. Wallick ran 20 times for 80 yards.
Defensively, Olson, Ehrich and Perdew each had an interception. Gunnar Ayres had five tackles and Tyler Field had 4.
The Crimson improve to 3-1 for the season and visit Anoka Friday, Sept. 28.