By Bob San
Maple Grove overcame a slow start and dominated Coon Rapids 49-19 in a Northwest Suburban Conference football home game Friday, Oct. 12.
“We came out a little flat early but as the game went on we picked it up,” Maple Grove coach Matt Lombardi said. “It was good to get the win. It was seniors night, their last game at home so I was happy for them.”
The Crimson were firing on all cylinders as they displayed a balanced attack and a stingy defense that did some scoring of its own.
Quarterback Blake Skaja had a career high 333 yards in passing. He completed 15 of 25 passes for 333 yards and four touchdowns. Jake Wieneke had 235 yards on nine catches and three touchdowns. Brycen Wojta had five catches for 86 yards and a touchdown and kicked one field goal and four extra points. Jack Wallick had 74 yards rushing and Brian Yasosky had 79.
Skaja and Wieneke opened scoring with a 53-yard touchdown pass play early in the first quarter. Coon Rapids tied it with a TD run but the Crimson erupted for 27 unanswered points to pull away.
Wojta put MG ahead to stay with a 24-yard field goal, Yasosky found the end zone on a 49-yard run, and Skaja hit Wieneke for a 34-yard scoring strike to make the score 25-7.
The defense got into the scoring act when linebacker Peder Olson sacked the Cardinal quarterback in the end zone for a safety.
Skaja followed with touchdown passes of 37 yards to Wieneke and 29 yards to Wojta. The special team added a safety and Clark Wieneke returned a kickoff 50 yards to complete scoring.
“Both the offense and defense did really well,” Lombardi said. “Defensively we did a nice job. The starting D held them to one score but still came out a little bit flat. I think they left the game thinking they could play better but sometimes there is something good to be said when you are not totally clicking but you still find a way to stop them. That’s a good sign.”
Lombardi had high praise for the passing game as Skaja, Wieneke and Wojta again put on a show.
“They did really, really well and made lots of big plays,” Lombardi said. “Jake is having a remarkable year and so is Brycen and so is Blake. Those three are having a very special senior year.”
Maple Grove played Champlin Park Wednesday, Oct. 17, in the season finale. Seedings for the section tournament is Thursday, Oct. 18. The section tournament begins Tuesday, Oct. 23.
The Crimson and 31 other Class 6A teams will participate in a new playoff format this year. The 32 teams are divided into four sections and the sections’ top seeds will take on the lower seeds (No. 1 against No. 8 seeds, the No. 2 seeds get the No. 7 seeds, and so on) in the section quarterfinals. In the next round, the four teams in each section will crossover and take teams from another section in predetermined games. The eight winners will qualify for the state tournament. It will be an interesting seeding meeting as Osseo, Maple Grove and Champlin Park are all worthy on a No. 1 seed.
“Champlin Park has won five in a row, we have won five in a row and Osseo has won all their games,” Lombardi said. “We lost to Osseo without Wieneke, Champlin Park lost to Eden Prairie so there are a lot of elements going into the seedings. Every team has a really good case but it all comes down to how you play on the field.”
Lombardi likes the new section playoff format.
“You really only play your own section team for the first game and the second game is against a team from a different section,” he said. “I think it’s exciting. It’s a new way and it will be fun to watch.”