The Apple Valley football team is coming off of a state tournament season in 2016. They lost their starting quarterback and a handful of contributors from that squad, but they returned a solid overall team. Based off a 27-7 opening…
The Apple Valley football team is coming off of a state tournament season in 2016. They lost their starting quarterback and a handful of contributors from that squad, but they returned a solid overall team. Based off a 27-7 opening week victory over Hopkins, the Eagles look like they will be able to beat teams in a variety of ways.
Defensive back Chris Antholt got his hands on a pass to the outside that resulted in an interception. Later in the first half he would get his own interception. He read the pass to the flat, closed on it, stepped in front of the receiver and picked off the pass.
Jackson Green was the recipient of the Antholt tip. In the second half Green – ranked 319th in the senior class by NFN – would catch a short pass and used a physical run after catch to pick up a first down. Later, the senior showed off his hands – or at least one of his hands – with a one handed grab near the sidelines.
Running back Kellen McKeag – NFN 61st ranked senior – is a powerful inside runner and broke tackles nearly every time he touched the ball. He used his speed more than his power when he ran around the right side for the second of the Eagles’ scores. The touchdown run covered 49 yards. One of his best moments was a short run that should have been stopped for a short gain, but he made a series of cuts to avoid tacklers and pick up a first down.
Defensively he started at linebacker and in the first half covered a lot of ground and made a textbook open field tackle for a short gain.
“As a defense we pride ourselves on speed,” McKeag said, “If we continue to be a fast defense – which I think we will – games will look a lot like tonight.”
On an early fourth and one, quarterback Tyler Cardella – out of the shotgun – took the ball around the right side for ten yards. He was a weapon running the ball all night, mainly on inside running plays. One of his best runs was to the outside. Three defenders appeared to have him hemmed in, but his quick feet got him out of trouble and turned a loss into a short gain. For the game Cardella was most effective under fifteen yards where he had no problems with accuracy.
On a third and fourteen, Nathan Macho, who NFN has ranked 202nd in the senior class took a wide receiver screen and made three Royals miss en-route to the end zone and the Eagles’ first score.
Riley Hansen – one of the Eagles’ offensive tackles and NFN’s 95th ranked senior – routinely was seen finishing his blocks three or four yards down the field.
Spencer Rolland, Jon Erickson, Logan Wangerin (296th ranked senior) and Jacob Yang joined Hansen on an offensive line that outside of the second quarter dominated the front seven of the Royals.
“On the offensive line we have four returning starters and Yang, our sophomore center picked up the offense great,” Hansen said. “I think we have one of the best offensive lines in the state.”
Especially in the first half, linebacker Tony Anger – another sophomore – was a player the Royals couldn’t deal with in the running game. Anger disrupted four or five running plays for little or no gain.
Hopkins tried to throw a swing pass into the flat but defensive back Logan Day read the play and made a solid open field tackle to keep the completion to a minimal gain. In the second half Day got his hand on a ball to prevent a completion.
For the first of his two interceptions on the game – Josh Arnold was one on one on the outside and won the battle for an underthrown ball. His second pick came on an out pattern that he cut in front of the receiver and added a ten yard return to his interception.
The defensive line – which usually consisted of Tyler Kim – who had a second half sack, Erickson and Colton Bauer – got pressure on the quarterback in spurts, but more importantly they got penetration and took on double teams to free up the linebackers to make plays. None of them is exceptionally big, but they are quick off the ball.
Mainly and offensive lineman, Rolland – NFN’s 68th ranked senior – is in the Eagles’ defensive line rotation and he penetrated and stuffed a run between the tackles.
With Rolland a front five as talented as the Eagles’ offensive line is a return trip to the state tournament is something Apple Valley should be aspiring toward.