By Jake Schroer
Crow River News Sports
Dallas Freeman, in his final homecoming game, caught three touchdown passes from Jackson Greenwaldt en route to a big victory over visiting Chisago Lakes (4-1).
The Knights (5-0) started quickly, as a short opening kickoff found its way back into STMA’s possession on a fumble. The Knights took the opening drive for a field goal and a 3-0 lead.
After stopping Chisago, the Knights got the ball back and Chris Kartes surged for a long touchdown, but a penalty negated the score. Kartes responded by scoring on a 61 yard run later in the drive. The Knights led 10-0 as the first quarter closed.
Chisago Lakes drove deep into STMA territory where Mitch Berg connected with William Gillach for a 16 yard touchdown early in the second quarter. The Knights responded with a scoring drive of their own, as Greenwaldt hooked up with Freeman for the first time on a 20 yard touchdown, restoring the ten point lead.
The Wildcats answered late in the half on another Berg to Gillach touchdown pass, and the Knights lead shrunk to 17-14 at halftime.
STMA’s Chris Kartes fumbled at the goal line during an early third quarter drive, but Noah Evans saved the day, recovering it in the endzone for a touchdown. Chisago blocked the extra point, and the lead stood at nine.
Berg ran for a 17 yard touchdown, but the Knights exacted revenge by blocking the Wildcats’ extra point attempt, keeping the lead at 23-20. Three minutes later, Greenwaldt found Freeman for the second time on a 43 yard touchdown strike. This time, the extra point sailed through the uprights.
As the Wildcats did all night, they drove into Knights territory, residing at the 23 as the third quarter ended. Josh Parks, a Division I recruit who ran for over 160 yards on the evening, broke a long run to set up his team. Parks later scored a 10 yard touchdown to cut the lead to four. On the ensuing extra point, Chisago botched the exchange, and the score remained 30-26.
Freeman and Greenwaldt hooked up for their third touchdown connection and the Knights led 37-26 with 7:35 remaining. The defense took over from there, getting a trio of crucial stops over the final minutes. One came after a Chris Kartes fumble deep in his own territory. Very late in the game, Freeman capped his kingly performance with a final interception. He finished with 6 catches for 174 yards.
Coach Jared Essler said that his team knew of the challenge Chisago brought to the table, and that his offense grew up a little during the game.
“We knew they were an offensive juggernaut with some really talented kids and a really multi-fashioned run-pass team that could do it all, and that’s what they showed, and we just kind of prepared like we do every week knowing that it was going to be a really big challenge,” Essler said.
Essler also praised Freeman for his efforts.
“(Dallas) played phenomenal tonight and when he’s good, we’ll be good.”
Freeman said that the Knights wanted a fun homecoming, especially the seniors since it was their last one.
“We had to come out with a bang, and plus, we were facing a 4-0 team with a really good running back. We shut him down to help us out. It’s just a lot of fun, that’s for sure,” he said.
Essler expressed a bit of frustration at the Kartes fumble late in the game, but was proud that the defense rebounded and a mistake did not cost his team everything. He called the game a good team win.
STMA takes its 5-0 record to Duluth, taking on Duluth East in a 6:00 game tomorrow night.