By Bob San
Osseo-Maple Grove Sports
Maple Grove football coach Matt Lombardi has been looking for his offense to have more balance between rushing and passing. Judging from last Friday’s 24-7 homecoming win over Anoka, the Crimson are getting close to being that.
The Crimson were tested by a physical Anoka team that hung close for much of the game. The Tornadoes even became the first team this season to prevent Maple Grove from scoring a rushing touchdown. However, Maple Grove, led by sophomore quarterback Karl Altenburg, struck three times via the air and added a field goal to pull away.
Maple Grove led 10-0 early on a field goal by Tyler Knutson and a touchdown pass from Altenburg to Tyler Coyne. Altenburg then threw two touchdown passes to Brady Engelke in the second half to break the game open.
“The sophomore quarterback made some plays and threw three touchdown passes,” Lombardi said. “We are trying to become more balanced and get more guys involved in the offense. Karl is thrown into the fire and learning on the job but he is getting better every week.”
Altenburg completed 8 of 21 passes for 163 yards, threw three TDs and had one interception. Engelke caught three passes for 78 yards and had two touchdown receptions.
“Engelke kind of reminds me of Steve Largent (the Seattle Seahawks Hall of Fame receiver),” Lombardi said. “He runs really good routes, is a hard nosed kid and every ball thrown in his direction he more than likely comes up with it. I told them that but they don’t know Steve Largent.”
The Crimson’s passing complemented their running game, which gained 214 yards. They were missing the injured Tahi Nomane and Ian Hanson but they still had junior speedster Clark Wieneke and senior bruiser Coyne. Wieneke collected 174 yards on 25 carries and Coyne had 44 yards on eight rushes. Coyne also caught two passes for 49 yards and a TD.
“With Tahi and Ian out, Clark had to take a lot of carries and Tyler also picked up the slacks,” Lombardi said. “Our running game did a decent job even though we didn’t get the big plays we got in previous games. Hopefully we can be more diversified offensively but we still want to run the ball.”
The offensive line anchored by Mitch Engel, Jacob Sterling, Kam Garlick, Kolton Kitterman, Kayode Awosika, Ben Shoults did another solid job of opening holes and protecting the quarterback.
Twenty four points were more than enough for the Maple Grove defense, which played another solid game, holding Anoka to 180 yards in total offense. Jake Engelken led the way with 20 tackles, Adam Brant had 11, Emmanual Ehrich, Isaac Collins, Theo Freier had seven, Blake Whitecotton and Zach Cobin and Gunnar Ayres each added six.
“Anoka played very hard nosed and gritty against us,” Lombardi said. “It was homecoming with a lot of distractions. We probably did not come out with the intensity we needed. But no excuse, I give Anoka a lot of credits for a hard-fought game.”
First place in the Northwest Suburban Conference North is at steak when the 5-0 Crimson next visit Centennial (4-1) Friday, Oct. 4. Both are 2-0 in league play. Maple Grove jumped to No. 2 in the most recent ranking.
“Centennial is playing very well now,” Lombardi said. “They are a really good running team and have athletes that can hurt you with the pass. And their D has not given up anything for four weeks. We’ll have be at our best.”
Lombardi does not know whether Tahi’s injured ankle will recover in time for the Centennial game.
“He was on crutches the end of last week. He was still banged up,” Lombardi said. “He played through lot of pain the first three weeks but it got so bad he could not play.”