Five turnovers key 21-10 win over Anoka
by Nick Clark
Sun POST Newspapers
There are 364 days a year on the calendar at Champlin Park. And then there is the Friday the football team plays Anoka.
The rivalry has existed between two schools since Champlin Park opened its doors prior to the 1994-95 school year, festering over boundaries separated only by the Mississippi River.
The game is known as simply the Battle for the Paddle, and there is generally and emphasis on the “Battle” part of the title.
“It’s always been that way,” said Champlin Park head coach Mike Korton. “That is what has made it so special over the years.”
Last Friday was no different, as an early Rebel burst proved to be the only difference in an otherwise rugged and feisty night under the lights.
Champlin Park won 21-10, securing the Paddle for a second straight fall.
The Rebels scored each of their three touchdowns in the opening half, and they all came directly off turnovers forced by a defense that, for the second straight week, took the ball back on five separate occasions.
“We practice forcing turnovers every week, and it is really paying off” said linebacker Dillon Cox, who was one of four Rebel defenders to recover a fumble. “The defense stepped it up, and the offense closed it out.”
That was certainly the case late, when after Cox tipped a fourth-down pass to turn Anoka over on downs, the Champlin Park offense ran out the final three minutes on back-to-back first down runs by Datrice Mulsumo.
Long before then, the Rebel offense was simply feeding off what their teammates on the other side of the ball were doing.
Champlin Park forced a fumble on the very first play of the night, which Tony White recovered to set the offense up on the Anoka 11-yard line. Two plays later, Nnamudi Nwaokolo bullied his way in from a yard out to make it a 7-0 Rebels lead 1:09 into the game.
The Rebels forced another fumble on Anoka’s second possession. This time it was Dan Branger falling on a ball near midfield that would eventually lead to a 7-yard touchdown run by quarterback Max Biegert and a 14-0 Champlin Park advantage not even three minutes in.
Anoka got on the board with 5:41 left in the second quarter on a 44-yard field goal from Travis Mashuga, and the Tornadoes would be on the move again late in the half when Adam Kamrath picked off a Travis Bengtson pass on the Champlin Park 36-yard line.
Mulsumo went 64-yards for a touchdown on the next play to make it a 21-3 game at the intermission.
“Huge play,” said Cox. “We get the ball back, and he goes the distance.”
The touchdown would prove important in the second half, as the Rebels did nothing into the wind in the third quarter. Anoka, meanwhile, did its best to cut into the lead. Cox halted one drive, recovering a fumble on his own one-yard line to stop a would-be Tornado touchdown. But Anoka would get that score on its next drive, taking advantage of a short field to slice the lead to 21-10,
The Rebels defense would hold from there though, sending the team into a Week 8 showdown at undefeated Maple Grove Oct. 9 with a record that now sits just a game below .500 at 3-4.
“We keep getting better every week, and as coaches, that is all we want to see,” said Korton. “We are taking steps. Now the guys have to believe it, because if you saw us from the start of the year to now, there is no question we are getting better every game.”
Mulsumo finished with 200 yards on the ground in the win, including 50 on the game’s final drive, which ended with the Rebels racing to the North endzone in search of a traveling trophy they crave one day each year.
“We always think about the paddle,” said Cox. “You circle this game on the calender, because it just means so much. This is the game no one around here everyone talks about, so it obviously makes it exciting to win it.”
Contact Nick Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org