by Bob San
Osseo-Maple Grove Sports
“Our defense was causing havoc,” Maple Grove football coach Matt Lombardi said after his undefeated Crimson demolished host Coon Rapids 49-14 last Friday.
The Cardinals certainly concurred because their offense could muster little against the speedy and swarming Maple Grove defense when the game mattered.
Maple Grove created four Cardinal turnovers in the first half and scored on one of them. That came in the first quarter when Maple Grove led 14-0 on two touchdowns by Clark Wieneke on an 80-yard run and a 5-yard rush. Coon Rapids marched all the way to the MG one-yard line when it attempted a pass. But Isaac Collins smelled the play, intercepted the pass and ran it back 99 yards for a touchdown.
For the game, the Crimson defense intercepted five Coon Rapids passes and kept the Cardinals in a state of disarray until the game was already decided.
“Our defense is starting to play the way we expected them to play,” Lombardi said. “Our goals are to stop the other team, shorten the field for our offense and scoring is also one of them. Our defense is not very big but we want kids that want to play hard and fast. All our guys on defense can run pretty well.”
Collins had the big interception. Also coming up with interception were Sam Franta, Adam Brant, Ben Whiteis and Emmanual Ehrich. Theo Freier, Ehrich and Collins led with eight tackles, Jake Engelken had seven and Franta and Pedor Olson each added six.
Offensively, Lombardi went with third string quarterback Evan Pukal because sophomore Karl Altenburg was injured in the Centennial game and Lombardi decided to sit him.
“Evan did a good job for his first ever start,” Lombardi said. “He did a good job of leading the team, got the ball to the right people and didn’t make mistakes. He managed the game well.”
The Crimson unleashed their power ground game and gained 400 yards, averaged 10 yards per carry and scored six rushing touchdowns. Wieneke led the way with 157 yards on seven runs with two touchdowns, Shaun Harrell had 96 yards and Tahi Nomane had 83 yards and one touchdown. Also scoring are Tyler Coyne, Collins and Pukal.
“We ran the ball very well. We averaged 13 yards a carry in the first half,” Lombardi said. “Our offensive line did a great job and a lot of kids got involved.”
The 7-0 Crimson will host Champlin Park in the regular season finale Wednesday, Oct. 16. The Northwest Suburban Conference North Division title and a section top seed will be at stake for the Crimson. Section seedings will take place Thursday, Oct. 17 with first round games at the higher seeds Tuesday, Oct. 22.
Maple Grove lost several top players to graduation and there were many question marks when the season began. But the Crimson quickly developed into a solid all-around team and is now one win away from a conference title and an undefeated regular season.
“I am very proud of the kids,” Lombardi said. “They have worked very hard and have had a successful start. But their goals are much bigger so they are staying motivated.”