Cretin-Derham Hall will be an underdog when welcoming reigning Class 6A state champion Totino-Grace for the season opener on Thursday. Photo by Rick Orndorf, SportsEngine
The start of high school football is upon Minnesota. The first night under the lights often features some nerves, as well as some curiosity from fans who wonder how their favorite team will look this season.
Cretin-Derham Hall gets an opportunity to prove itself — and possibly provide some confidence for its fans — in the season opener as it hosts perennial powerhouse and reigning Class 6A state champion Totino-Grace at the University of St. Thomas.
While the Eagles have won three titles and placed second in the state tournament since the start of their impressive run in 2010, the once-dominant Raiders haven’t challenged for a state title since winning it all in 2009. Cretin-Derham Hall, however, has maintained its regular-season success, recording seven or more victories each year.
This matchup between a team determined to pull off an upset and rekindle its past postseason glory with a win against a perennial house is worthy of being our first Top Game of the Week this season.
Totino-Grace vs. Cretin-Derham Hall
7:30 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 31
Besides featuring teams with plenty of championship pedigree, Thursday’s contest offers an interesting match on the sidelines, as last season’s coaches association Coach of the Year Jeff Ferguson and Totino-Grace face a Cretin-Derham Hall team led by former NFL quarterback Brooks Bollinger.
The Eagles graduated 23 seniors last season, but Ferguson has been through this drill and always come back strong. Totino-Grace looks to Sam Hanson to step up in the backfield following a junior season in which he rushed for 423 yards and four touchdowns as a backup.
Bollinger’s Raiders have had to replace several players as well. The top returner in the backfield is senior Terrance Nash, who ran for 455 yards and seven touchdowns a year ago.
The Raptors earned a 21-7 victory despite the absence of Dominik London, who left the game in the first quarter with an injury.
It took five years and 42 games, but Forest Lake is back in the win column.
The Rangers snapped a 41-game losing streak that dated back to Week 5 of the 2011 season with a 20-14 home win over White Bear Lake on Friday night.
Forest Lake coach Jeff Wilson called the victory “a huge step” for the program.
Wilson called the losing streak “a big monkey on our back.” Kids drifted away from football as the losses piled up for the program in recent years, making any attempt at a rebuild a challenge.
Forest Lake’s best shot at a win looked to be next year, when the Rangers move to a subdistrict filled with smaller schools.
Still, there was hope this year. While Forest Lake isn’t big in size, there are some talented athletes, particularly on defense.
“We have a real solid core of seniors that have worked really hard,” Wilson said in a phone interview. “We believe in their skills.”
There have been plenty of weeks in recent years where Wilson has heard people say ‘I’ve got a feeling,’ the streak would end that Friday. But he said this week felt different. Practice was good. This chance could be real.
It showed early, as Forest Lake (1-1) jumped out to a 14-0 lead. But White Bear Lake (0-2) rallied to tie it in the third. That’s when the doubts crept back. Would this be another near miss?
“Regardless of what anyone wants to say,” Wilson said, “your mind wants to travel back to ‘This can’t happen again.’”
It didn’t, as Forest Lake regained the lead late in the third and held on for that elusive first victory in forever.
Wilson wouldn’t believe the Rangers had won it until the final whistle. When that came, the students stormed the field.
“Their motto this year was ‘Finish the fight,’” Wilson said of his players, “and that’s what they did.”
East Ridge 24, Mounds View 14: Raptors senior running back Dominik London, a Gophers commit, ran for 173 yards and three touchdowns on 41 carries to lead East Ridge (1-1) past Mounds View (1-1).
Lakeville North 42, Eagan 7: Panthers running back Wade Sullivan ran for six touchdowns on Friday night — all in the first half. His longest scoring strike came from 68 yards out as Lakeville North cruised to 2-0.
South St. Paul 29, Park 26: Sam Rohrer was the hero for the Packers (2-0) on Friday night, as he kicked the game-winning 32-yard field goal in the closing seconds to push South St. Paul past Park (1-1). Packers senior quarterback Ryan Duffy accounted for four touchdowns, three of which came on the ground.
Hobbled Hornets quarterback Brock Boltmann threw for two touchdowns to inspire his teammates to a 21-6 victory.
Having just watched his receiver drop a sure fourth-down touchdown pass in a one-point game, Edina quarterback Brock Boltmann went back out with the defense.
During the ensuing Mounds View drive, Boltmann, a two-way starter, limped to the sideline. The defense forced the Mustangs to punt. Boltmann hobbled back into the game under center, hoping the fresh tape on his left ankle would hold.
A few plays later, Boltmann showed his plant foot felt well enough. He threw a touchdown pass 44 yards downfield to Evan Holm as No. 3 seed Edina pulled away for a 21-6 victory in the first round of the Class 6A tournament Friday at Edina.
Holm wasn’t finished. His 58-yard interception return for a score with 39.2 seconds left iced the victory. Seeing Boltmann fight back to deliver a big play inspired Holm to make one of his own.
“It pushes everyone else,” Holm said. “If you’ve got an injury or an ache, you want to go because he’s going to.”
Neither team went much of anywhere in the first half. Edina (4-5) scored on its second drive as Boltmann hit Parker Rickert for a 27-yard touchdown in the first quarter. Mounds View almost drew even. Ryan Nickel found Luke Swenson from 14 yards out, but the extra-point try failed.
No. 6 seed Mounds View (4-5) started the fourth quarter by turning Edina over on downs. Then Boltmann, whose father, Reed, is Edina’s head coach, was hobbled. But the Mustangs could not seize control.
“Every drive we had gave us the ability to go ahead, but we couldn’t make the big play when we had to,” Mounds View coach Jim Galvin said. “We just sputtered.”
Edina, meanwhile, exploded for a huge play. Boltmann said he felt “the defense knew I was hurt” so when the Hornets called a play-action pass “they came in and we went over the top.”
The pass gave Edina a 14-6 lead, meaning Mounds View would need a touchdown and two-point conversion to draw even. Holm dashed the Mustangs’ hopes with the interception. His instinct told him to fall down and secure the change of possession. But the open field beckoned.
Game at a glance
Key of the game: You have your choice of Evan Holm highlights. Streaking downfield, he hauled in a fourth-quarter touchdown pass from quarterback Brock Boltmann. His team leading 14-6, Holm struck again with a 58-yard interception return to ice Edina’s victory. Oh, and Holm intercepted a Mounds View pass on the final play of the game.
Quote: “I just knew I had to get taped and get back on the field. I need to be out there and leading the team.” — Edina quarterback Brock Boltmann
One thing to know: Mounds View lost its fourth consecutive game. Coach Jim Galvin said missed opportunities late in all four games resulted in defeat.
DAVID LA VAQUE
By Sam Gordon
POSTED: 10/17/2015 12:01:00 AM CDT |
Mounds View co-captain River Thompson and a handful of his fellow seniors hung around the 50-yard line after a 21-6 loss to Edina on Friday night.
A season that started with so much promise — and a top-five ranking in the Class 6A preseason poll — ended with some sentimental embraces.
And some watery eyes.
The Mustangs had their chances early and late but couldn’t muster up enough offense to topple the Hornets in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs at Edina Community Center.
Edina held Mounds View’s run-first offense in check and forced junior quarterback Ryan Nickel to fling the football. He responded by throwing an early touchdown pass and four interceptions.
“We couldn’t put the ball in the end zone. We drove down a couple times and we couldn’t score,” Mounds View coach Jim Galvin said. “We just couldn’t make the big play when we had to.”
Edina junior quarterback Brock Boltmann threw two touchdown passes, including a 44-yard bomb to University of North Dakota-bound wide receiver Evan Holm late in the fourth quarter. Holm intercepted a Nickel pass and returned it for a touchdown in the final minute to seal Edina’s victory.
Galvin gathered the players in the stadium’s south end zone after the game and thanked them for a great season while Edina players howled in celebration in the other end zone. The Hornets will play No. 2 seed Burnsville in a second-round matchup next Friday.
Mounds View started the season 4-1 but lost its final three regular season games — all by 10 points or fewer — to finish the regular season 4-4. Thompson said execution was a factor in all of the Mustangs’ losses down the stretch.
“Effort has never been a problem for us,” Thompson said. “We had big opportunities and we just couldn’t capitalize. That was the big difference. … We couldn’t get it done”
The Mustangs, in turn, drew a No. 6 seed in the 32-team tournament despite having a better regular-season record than the Hornets, who finished the regular season 3-5.
But Edina validated its seeding on Friday night.
Boltmann threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Parker Rickert late in the first quarter. Nickel directed a 13-play, 79-yard drive late for Mounds View in the second quarter and capped it with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Luke Swenson.
The Mustangs botched the extra point, though, and spent the next two-plus quarters chasing the Hornets.
Mounds View had several second-half possessions and moved the ball at times. But untimely negative plays and incompletions put Nickel and the Mustangs in several third-and-longs.
“(Mounds View is) a good, well-coached football team,” Edina coach Reed Boltmann said. “We were lucky to get the pick-six.”
Galvin reinforced after the game that the Mustangs needed just one more big play in a handful of games this season.
“We’re right in these dang games. We just can’t come up with the play at the end that we needed,” he said. “It’s been that way for the last three weeks.”
High school football: East Ridge 28, Mounds View 21
Dan Fritze has been the East Ridge football coach for just two games, and he already has accomplished something predecessor Mike Pendino never did.
He beat Mounds View.
The Raptors jumped to an early 14-0 lead and held off a late rally to beat the Mustangs 28-21, their first-ever win over the Mustangs and the first win of Fritze’s head coaching career.
After the game, assistant coaches congratulated Fritze, East Ridge’s longtime offensive coordinator who took over after Pendino stepped down earlier this month amid an eligibility controversy.
“I don’t really see it as my first win. I’ve been a coach at East Ridge since (2009),” Fritze said. “It feels like our team’s first win. That’s how it feels.”
Fritze gathered his players near the 30-yard line and delivered a spirited postgame speech.
“There’s something special here,” Fritze said as players responded with enthusiasm.
Raptors junior running back Dominik London said players have rallied behind Fritze and “were cheering for him to be head coach” after learning Pendino resigned.
“We didn’t want anybody coming in (from outside the program). We love Coach Fritze,” London said after rushing for 201 yards on 27 carries. “I think he’s doing a really good job with us right now.”
Senior linebacker Joshua Knazze had a key interception and a fumble-return touchdown as the Raptors improved to 1-1. London scored a touchdown, and fullback Connor Mohs had two touchdowns runs.
The Mustangs (1-1), ranked No. 4 in the state in Class 6A, rotated three quarterbacks but struggled to find an offensive rhythm. Mustangs ball carriers had just 53 yards rushing on 35 attempts. The quarterbacks combined to finish 15 of 27 for 202 yards.
Mounds View junior quarterback Steven Skwarek threw two touchdown passes, but Knazze intercepted his first pass attempt to set up Mohs’ first touchdown run early in the first quarter.
“When I saw that (interception) — that was the stepping stone right there,” London said. “East Ridge is back.”
London had a 68-yard run on the Raptors’ next drive to set up Mohs’ second touchdown run, and East Ridge’s defense kept the Mustangs at bay for most of the first half.
“Building that early lead is huge,” Mounds View coach Jim Galvin said. “We had a lot of trouble corralling those guys.”
Knazze gave the Raptors a 28-7 lead in the third quarter with a fumble-return touchdown, but Mounds View clawed back and pulled within a touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
Skwarek and receiver Mitch Vaske failed to connected on an open go-route late in the fourth, though, and East Ridge ran out the clock to secure Fritze’s first win.
“Our kids see (Mounds View) really as the program in the conference to beat,” Fritze said. “(These are) baby steps right now for this season.”