Knights bring pressure, wear out Bengals in 40-20 win

STMA’s Desean Phillips breaks free for a long run in the third quarter. (Photo by Jake Schroer)

By Jake Schroer
Crow River News Sports

STMA made another statement Friday night in Blaine, handing the Bengals a 40-20 loss to earn a second win in Class 6A. Blaine had come into the game ranked #3 in Class 6A.

Once again, the Knights ground game was superb, pounding the Bengals defense to the tune of 374 yards in the victory.

The Bengals scored first early in the opening quarter on a run by Alex Pekula. The Knights responded with a 14-yard touchdown by Mitchell Kartes, and a two-point conversion by Desean Phillips.

There was only one score in the second quarter, but it belonged to the Knights. Kartes scored his second touchdown of the game, breaking loose for 72 yards on a play that energized the STMA faithful and gave the Knights a 15-7 lead. The eight-point lead carried into the intermission.

The Knights extended the lead later in the third quarter on a touchdown pass from Marcus Krupke to Zack Sjelin. The 19-yard score gave STMA a 21-7 lead after an unsuccessful conversion attempt.

Late in the third, the Bengals caught a break on a Knights penalty which helped kick-start the Blaine offense. The Bengals scored on a touchdown from Byron Bynum Jr, narrowing the gap to 21-14.

Moments later, still in the third quarter, Phillips broke free for a 65-yard touchdown to give the Knights a 27-14 lead, swinging the pendulum back in the direction of STMA as the game entered the fourth quarter.

In the fourth, after a penalty on the Bengals got picked up and killed an STMA drive, the Knights defense came back with a vengeance, turning Blaine over on downs. Mitchell Kartes then ran for his third touchdown of the game to put the game out of reach.

On Blaine’s next drive, the Knights recovered a fumble, leading to Phillips scoring his second touchdown of the night to make it 40-14. Blaine scored late against the STMA reserves to make the final score 40-20.

“I really like our team speed on defense,” head coach Jared Essler said. “That’s what you’ve got to have when you play one of these spread teams.”

The STMA defense had six sacks and several other big plays throughout the game.

Kartes said that the Knights knew Blaine had a phenomenal offense and they really had to bring it on both sides of the ball if they wanted to compete.

“It was all about getting on a roll, getting our rhythm down, running the ball, stopping the run, and just playing our game, playing at our own tempo,” Kartes said. “When we can control the game, it’s phenomenal for us.”

Kartes also spoke highly of the challenge each 6A game will bring for he and his teammates.

“Every week, you prepare the exact same and you’re coming out here to play your best game,” he said.

With the win, the Knights enter Friday’s home-opening game against Champlin Park as the #6 ranked team in Class 6A while the Rebels enter ranked at #7. Game time is at 7 p.m.

Note: STMA-Champlin Park was chosen as Kare-11’s prep football game of the week.