Minnetonka, missed opportunities dash Crimson’s state football tourney dreams

By Bob San

Maple Grove picked the wrong game to have its worst offensive night of the season.

In last Friday’s Class 6A crossover playoffs home game against Minnetonka, the Crimson failed to score a touchdown for the first time this season and lost 17-3.

Brycen Wojta follows the blocking of Crimson teammate Jake Wieneke for a good gain. (Photos by Rich Moll)

Brycen Wojta follows the blocking of Crimson teammate Jake Wieneke for a good gain. (Photos by Rich Moll)

“We just could not finish,” Maple Grove coach Matt Lombardi said. “We drove the ball up and down the field but could not finish. Minnetonka is a good team. They had lots of injuries and finally have the whole team back. They did a good job against us but I thought we didn’t take advantage of the opportunities we had.”

The Crimson had 240 passing yards and 72 running while Tonka had 127 passing and 138 rushing. The difference was the Skippers scored when they got close while the Crimson missed two field goals and did not score a touchdown.

“We out gained them but when they had the opportunities, they got into the end zone,” Lombardi said. “We’d move the ball between the 20s but could not finish. To be a state-caliber team, these are things you need to do.”

Maple Grove’s Emmanual Ehrich, left, and Matt Endres (17) join other teammates to bring down Minnetonka tightend Alex Garibaldi.

Maple Grove’s Emmanual Ehrich, left, and Matt Endres (17) join other teammates to bring down Minnetonka tightend Alex Garibaldi.

The Skippers led 10-0 at halftime behind a 33-yard field goal and a 5-yard touchdown pass. The Crimson had two nice drives but they could not sustain and missed two field goals and also lost a fumble.

“We made mistakes in this game that we hadn’t had throughout the season and that hurt us,” Lombardi said.

The Crimson got on board in the third quarter. They marched from their 41 to the Tonka 10 but had to settle for a 27-yard field goal by Brycen Wojta that made it 10-3.

Minnetonka came right back with a 10-play, 80-yard drive that culminated with a 33-yard touchdown run with 4:30 left in the third quarter to open up a 17-3 lead.

Maple Grove had averaged 33 points per game this season but on this night, the Crimson’s potent offense could not break the stubborn Tonka defense. The Skippers intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter and held on for the win.

Maple Grove’s dynamic receiving duo of Jake Wieneke and Wojta ended their high school careers with another big night. Wieneke had 11 catches for 144 yards while Wojta had 8 catches for 93 yards. Quarterback Blake Skaja threw for 240 yards in the game.

Defensively, linebacker Emmanual Ehrich led the way with 11 tackles. Tyler Field, Peder Olson and Sam Franta all had five.

The loss was devastating for the Crimson, who were hoping to qualify for the state tournament and play in the Dome. But Lombardi said the Crimson have a lot to be proud of for winning a conference title and finishing with a 9-1 overall record.

“That hurt was unbelievable after the game and the kids were in tears,” Lombardi said. “That is a good thing. I am very, very proud of these kids. They put their hearts and souls into the season and achieved things not many people expected them to.”

Lombardi called this team the foundation setters, for they have raised the profile of Maple Grove football and have set a high standard for future Crimson teams.

Maple Grove will lose many top seniors to graduation but Lombardi feels the team should be strong next year.

“We will have seven returning on defense and five on offense so we should be OK,” he said. “Plus our sophomore team went undefeated. So things are heading in the right direction.”

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