BY ROB LAPLANTE
In a game where Fergus Falls featured a high profile running attack, it was St. Michael-Albertville junior running back Chris Kartes stealing the show.
Kartes rushed for 160 yards and scored three touchdowns in a 42-0 blowout last Friday of the Otters. Kartes also got a little help from his friends. The Knights pounded out a season high 426 yards from scrimmage, 358 of those coming on the ground.
The Knights knew they had to control the ground game and shutdown the rushing attack from Fergus Falls senior Walker Heinen. Heinen ranked among the state’s rushing leaders with 1,019 yards and 10 touchdowns.
“The strength of our team is stopping the run,” said head coach Jared Essler. “That’s the strength of their game and they had to throw it a little more than they wanted too and I think it played right into our hands.”
Heinen and the Otters were shutdown the entire contest. The Knights held the senior to 49 yards rushing. They allowed only 132 total yards for the game, earning their first shutout of the season.
On the flip side, the offense for STMA was nearly unstoppable. It started in the first quarter when senior running back Brendon Poland found the end zone from a yard out.
Taking advantage of a rare opportunity on Senior Night, Poland finished with a career high 10 carries, 79 yards and one TD.
“It was awesome,” Kartes said. “It felt great we could get so many different guys running the ball and we were gaining so many yards. If it wasn’t for our offensive line, we aren’t getting those yards.”
While the passing game for senior quarterback Cole Krutzig wasn’t a necessity, he was able to do some damage with his legs. He rushed for 50 yards, including a score from 15 yards out.
Kartes was responsible for most the offense. His big night was highlighted on the opening play of the second half. Starting on its 26-yard line, Kartes took a Krutzig handoff and blasted his way for a 74-yard touchdown run.
He later would score from 12 and six yards out.
“Our offensive line was opening up huge holes,” Kartes said. “We were getting 10-plus yards on traps right up the middle.”
The ones responsible for making most those holes are senior offensive linemen Jeff Hackenmueller, Sean Scharlau, Mike Kessler and juniors Matt Krutzig, Cody Fox and Calvin Sackey.
While the offensive line has been solid, Essler points out the dynamic skills Kartes possesses once he sees an opening.
“He’s got another gear,” Essler said. “When he gets in the open field he’s able to run away from some people. If you get a 10 or 12 yard run, he’s able to pop it and that’s what makes him special.”
With the score out of reach, senior tailback Brennan Skon put together a memorable drive. Getting some rare playing time, Skon carried the ball six times for 34 yards and capped it off scoring his first TD from 4-yards out.
Defensively, it was another dominating performance. STMA allowed 132 total yards and got a key red zone turnover from senior Dallas Freeman. With the score 7-0 at the time, Freeman picked off Fergus Falls quarterback Brady Hansen at the two yard line, erasing the best chance for the Otters to score all night.
The Knights (3-2, 5-2 overall) battled first-place Monticello (4-1, 6-1 overall) Wednesday night in a key matchup that could decide top seeds for next week’s section playoffs. Due to deadline conflicts, results of that game will be in next week’s edition.