by Bob San
Jake Wieneke set a school record with four touchdown catches and Blake Skaja threw four touchdown passes in leading Maple Grove to a 33-6 win over Centennial Friday, Oct. 12.
Wieneke, a returning senior receiver, has been using his height, speed and sure hands to terrorize foes throughout the season. Skaja has emerged as one of the best passers in the league in his first varsity season. Playing under very windy conditions against Centennial, Skaja completed 18 of 22 passes for 216 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. It was the fourth time this season he passed for over 200 yards and he has thrown for 1,105 yards and 11 touchdowns in six games.
“He is the kind of kids you want on the playground,” Crimson coach Matt Lombardi said of his signal caller. “He makes things happen and he just gets it. Am I surprised how well he is doing? Not really, because of the kind of kid he is. This is his first year so every week is learning for him. He is doing a very nice job. I was wondering at the beginning of the Centennial game how he was going to handle the conditions but he threw the ball very well in both directions.”
It didn’t hurt Skaja that he has two of the best receivers in the state in Wieneke and Brycen Wojta as his targets. Wieneke had 11 catches for 177 yards and four touchdowns. He now has 696 yards and nine touchdowns for the season. Brycen Wojta had 4 catches for 35 yards. Both receivers have 38 receptions this season.
“To have two guys with 72 catches between them is a great thing to have,” Lombardi said. “They have both done an outstanding job and they have really helped our running game.”
Wieneke had a big night against Centennial and came up with his second school record performance of the season. Earlier he set a school mark for single game receptions with 13 against Armstrong.
“Centennial tried to stop Jake and went after him but he is starting to figure out the little things about being a receiver and has become a really good player,” Lombardi said. “We have to find ways to get him the ball because he is a force.”
Maple Grove had a solid rushing game as Jack Wallick led the ground attack with 73 yards.
The Crimson defense also had a stellar game, holding Centennial to 166 yards rushing and 66 yards passing. They recovered three fumbles and returned one for a touchdown.
“Centennial has the No. 1 rusher in the league and has a very good offensive team,” Lombardi said. “Our defense held tough and did a good job.”
The defensive touchdown came early in the second quarter. MG took a 6-0 on a Skaja to Wieneke 10-yard touchdown pass. The Crimson got the ball back and drove deep to Centennial territory but lost a fumble at the Centennial 6. But on the next play, the Crimson forced a fumble and nose guard Erik Skrivseth recovered and returned it 6 yards for a touchdown.
On Centennial’s next possession, Maple Grove recovered another fumble, this time by linebacker Emmanual Ehrichs, at the Centennial 26. Two plays later, the Crimson cashed in when Skaja hit Wieneke for a 15-yard touchdown pass that gave MG a 19-0 halftime lead.
Centennial scored in the third quarter to make it 19-6 but Skaja and Wieneke hooked up for touchdown passes of 2 and 43 yards in the fourth quarter to seal the win.
The Crimson, now 6-0 with the forfeit win over Osseo, next host Coon Rapids Friday, Oct. 12 before visiting Champlin Park Wednesday, Oct. 17. If both Maple Grove and Champlin Park win their Friday games, the teams will battle for the conference title. Maple Grove will be seeking its first conference championship since 2005 when the Crimson went undefeated before losing to Wayzata in the section final.
“It will be fun for our kids and fans if we will play for the conference title,” Lombardi said. “You never know at the beginning of the season if this is going to happen. It’s fun it’s ending up this way. Champlin Park has a great program and coach Korton has done a great job. They have a very tough early season schedule but since then they have been rolling. They will definitely be a formidable opponent.”