It was not the most artistic game you were ever going to see on Friday night in Minnetonka. There were multiple turnovers on both sides – including two right at the goal line – but it made for an entertaining…
It was not the most artistic game you were ever going to see on Friday night in Minnetonka. There were multiple turnovers on both sides – including two right at the goal line – but it made for an entertaining couple of hours. All one can ask for during a game between two top five teams to come down to a big play with less than a minute to play to decide the game.
Minnetonka got out to a big first-half lead against Maple Grove (2-1) but needed a stop on a fourth and short in the red zone with a minute to play to seal a 28-21 victory. As a team, the Skippers (3-0) played well when it counted most and had plenty of individual performances of note.
Quarterback Aaron Syverson overthrew his first two passes but was accurate with short passes early. Always in shotgun, Syverson is a dual-threat quarterback. He had a nice designed run behind a trap block behind guard Michael Galgano and tackle James Johnson as well as a late-game run behind linemen Mark Schmitz (ranked 329th by NFN in the senior class) and Nic Reader. Although he did throw an interception in the end zone, Syverson has a strong arm. He completed a 45-yard touchdown pass and later completed a 62-yard pass without any run after catch.
Syverson had some guys helping him out. Wide receiver Owen Freese made a nice move after a short completion to pick up a first down, Later the senior made a pair of moves and drove through a tackle on a short pass to get another first down. Down the sidelines, he caught Syverson's 62-yard pass with a diving reception. Freese has some physical play to him as well A solid stiff arm off a short catch led to a first down for the Skippers.
Jackson Owens caught a 45-yard touchdown on a post route.
Wide receiver Eric Douville ran a route into the end zone, but the ball was slightly underthrown. The short ball allowed the defender to get back into the play. Despite the defensive back nearly getting his hands on the ball, Douville kept his concentration and made a tough catch for a touchdown.
Running back Adam Livingston showed his skills go beyond simply running the ball. He is a solid pass blocker with a string of nice blitz pickups. As a runner, he has both speed and power. During one run he drove defender five yards down the field behind a block by Reader who drove the linebacker five yards downfield. Livingston showed his speed during a long run behind Henry Pears, Galgano and (343rd ranked) Cole Meeden.
In a 3-4 defense, most nose tackles' job is to take up blockers and keep his linebackers free to make tackles. While Ian Masui (ranked 107th) did do those jobs, but he did much more. The senior put good pressure on the quarterback. He not only stuffed runs between the tackles but was a problem for the middle of the Maple Grove offensive line all game. He is not just a two-gap player. Masui was able to scrape down the line to make a tackle more than once, made many tackles from the nose position.
The biggest beneficiaries from the play of Masui and defensive ends Samaje Finch Garrett, and James VanHorne were the linebackers. Inside linebacker Ty Barron has the size and build to be a big-time player. The 21st ranked senior according to NFN was a sure tackler – in particular between the tackles. Later, outside linebacker Sam Durkee strung out a run to the outside forcing only a short gain.
VanHorne (ranked 121st) scraped down the line to make a tackle. He generated a good pass rush late in the game that forced a quick throw. On a fourth and one late in the game, the senior captain made the tackle at the line of scrimmage. It was still a first down but was close enough for a measurement.
Cornerback Nehemiah Montague (NFN 43rd ranked senior) played tight man to man coverage and had two passes defensed.
Safety Jack Beil intercepted an overthrown ball and turned the pick into a twenty-yard return. With the biggest play that did not include a stop on fourth and one late in the fourth quarter, Beil forced a fumble just as a Maple Grove runner was about to cross the goal line. The senior captain's forced fumble resulted in a touchback. Just before his teammates stopped the Crimson on the game-ending fourth and short Beil forced an incompletion in the end zone by deflecting a pass on final drive.
It was the best game I have seen so far this year, and Minnetonka is the most talented team I have seen in this young season.