by Bob San
SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS
Winning the game and the superb performance of the defense were the only positive comments Maple Grove football coach Matt Lombardi could make about his team’s 23-14 victory at Hopkins last Friday.
“It was good to get a win even though we played awful,” Lombardi said. “We could not have played much uglier.”
Lombardi was talking specifically about the offense, which moved the ball all night but committed six turnovers. They still scored touchdowns on a Karl Altenberg to Brady Engelke 8-yard touchdown pass, a 34-yard field goal by Tyler Knutson, a 98-yard touchdown run by Tahi Nomane and a five-yard TD run by Ian Hanson. But they could have blown the game wide open if not for four lost fumbles and two interceptions.
“Offensively, we have to be a lot better,” Lombardi said. “We put up good numbers yardage wise, and I still think our offensive line is getting better weekly and has a chance to be really good, but to turn it over six times in a game is inexcusable. On a positive note, as a team we were able to run for over 340 yards, and we showed a couple glimmers in the passing game.”
But Lombardi had nothing but praise for the defense. Led by linebackers Emmanuel Ehrich and Peder Olson and a stellar secondary, the Crimson D was called upon repeatedly to hold off Hopkins.
“We turned it over so much that you have to give our defense a ton of credit,” Lombardi said. “They created five turnovers as well, and had four interceptions (by Isaac Collins, Lukas Burrington, Adam Brandt and Sam Franta), so we needed them time and time again to stem the tide for us and they did a nice job all night. And a couple of those turnovers led directly to two of our touchdowns. I hope our defense takes pride in what they can do because if they get better every week during the season, come playoff time they can be really good. It’s fun to watch.”
Another bright spot was the play of Nomane, who had another big game yardage wise with 296 yards on 29 carries. His 98-yard touchdown run was one of the best runs in school history.
“It truly was blocked to perfection, so that will be a play that will be remembered for a long time,” Lombardi said.
What made Nomane’s play even more impressive was that he played on an injured ankle.
“Last week, his ankle was the size of a grapefruit the day before the game,” Lombardi said. “He played through some pain Friday night, so I was proud of his effort. He has been a huge asset for our team, not just because of his talent, but because of the teammate he has been throughout the year. Tahi has had quite a first two weeks… he averages 271 yards a game right now. The thing is he is still pretty raw and he still is learning the position.”
Lombardi can’t wait for Nomane to heal fully and for the return of running back Clark Wieneke, who missed the Hopkins game because of an injured shoulder he suffered in the season opening game.
“Hopefully, as the year goes on and they both get healthy,” Lombardi said. “The one-two punch of Tahi and Clark Wieneke can be a lot of fun to watch.”
The 2-0 Crimson next host Elk River Friday, Sept. 13.
Contact Bob San at firstname.lastname@example.org