By Bob San
Osseo-Maple Grove Sports
Maple Grove’s eighth win of the football season last Wednesday happened very much like the first seven. The Crimson ran the ball effectively while their stellar defense stifled the opponents’ offense. The result was another convincing victory.
That’s what took place last Wednesday night when the Crimson cruised to a 34-7 home win over Champlin Park. The Crimson jumped to a 13-0 lead after one quarter when Clark Wieneke scored on a 31-yard touchdown run and Ryan Brochhausen returned a blocked punt 15 yards for another score. Maple Grove increased the lead to 27-0 at halftime. Quarterback Evan Pukal scored on a six-yard run and Tyler Coyne powered in the fourth TD from one yard out. Wieneke concluded Maple Grove’s scoring with an 11-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
“Champlin Park came in playing better,” Crimson coach Matt Lombardi said. “They took Blaine to overtime and won two of their last three. I was pleased because we jumped out early and set the tone right away. I thought we played really well in the first half. On our home field we made a good statement of this is the way we expected to play and we played very well.”
Maple Grove’s rushing game continued to flourish even though Pukal started for the second straight week in place of the injured Karl Altenburg, who hurt his shoulder in the Centennial game. The Crimson had 211 yards rushing. Wieneke rushed 11 times for 114 yards and Isaac Collins added 70 yards on five carries. Pukal completed 3 of 6 passes for 33 yards and scored his second touchdown in two games.
“Evan has played a couple games. He is confident and more importantly the kids are confident around him so I think the kids are happy with whoever is out there to lead us to battle,” Lombardi said. “It changed the focus of the offense but I am proud how the line and the running backs have really stepped up, In the last couple weeks we ran the ball better than we had all year.”
Maple Grove’s defense held Champlin Park to 161 yards rushing and 69 passing and basically had another shutout because the Rebels didn’t score until late when the score was 34-0. Jake Engelken led the Crimson with 11 tackles, Emmanual Ehrich and Blake Whitecotton each had eight, Peder Olson and Kyle Anderson had six, and Collins, Theo Freier, Zach Corbin, Adam Brant, Arnold Funyam four. Corbin and Sam Franta each intercepted a pass and Chris Fondakowski forced a fumble.
“We have high expectations for our defense and they are starting to play at that level,” Lombardi said. “The good part is not only are they holding people to no point, but they are starting to get field position for the offense and get a lot of turnovers and cause a lot of havoc. The defense set the entire tone for the game.”
No. 1 Seed
For the second straight year, the second-ranked Crimson edged Osseo to receive the No. 1 seed in the Section 5 Tournament. They open against eighth-seeded Anoka Friday, Oct. 25.
“There are many teams deserving,” Lombardi said. “Osseo made a great run with the schedule they played and with the way they played and beat Totino. I don’t think it’s going to make a lot of difference because the teams coming in from both sides are really good. It’s kind of a number. There is no big difference between one or two. It does not mean anything once the playing starts.”
If they win, the Crimson will host the second round game against either Minnetonka or Edina. Last year, the Skippers defeated the Crimson in the second round at Maple Grove. The Final 8 games this season will be played at the Metrodome and TCF Bank Stadium.
But Lombardi wants to focus on Anoka, a team they beat 24-7 on Sept. 27.
“That was the closest game we played this season,” Lombardi said. “Anoka is the eighth seed but they are physical and play very good defense.”