41-13 Eden Prairie. That was the final score last year when Lakeville North hooked up with Eden Prairie. The Eagles dominated the game and turned what looked like a high-powered matchup into a one-sided affair. Although the game was much…
41-13 Eden Prairie. That was the final score last year when Lakeville North hooked up with Eden Prairie. The Eagles dominated the game and turned what looked like a high-powered matchup into a one-sided affair. Although the game was much closer this time around in many ways, Lakeville North was as dominate defeating Eden Prairie 14-0 as EP was a year earlier. Here are some of the many performances that impacted the Panthers’ Week 2 victory over the defending state champions.
Running back Brian Curtis Jr was Lakeville North’s primary offensive weapon. Although the entire offense started slow, Curtis was able to grind out most of the few yards the offense was able to generate in the first half. In the second half, Curtis had two power runs between the tackles in the red zone. The second of those went for a touchdown. When the Panthers put together their best scoring drive of the night, it was more tough inside running for Curtis. First, he found room behind offensive lineman Jack Hansen for twelve yards. Then he used a nice cut in the hole. He should have been stopped short of the first down but used his power to drive past the sticks on a third and five. Later, running behind Casey Starin, Curtis broke a tackle to pick up another first down. Late in the game, the offense called on Curtis to convert a fourth and one at their own thirty. He picked up the first down behind Hansen and Bryce Benhart.
With Curtis providing the inside power running Raja Nelson provided the speed and versatility. He used his speed and a block by Benhart to get the corner for a first down. Nelson and Benhart combined on the same play the next series of downs for another first down. That set up Curtis with another touchdown run running behind for most of the drive behind Hansen and Benhart.
It didn’t count because of a penalty, but Nelson returned a blocked field goal 95-yards for a touchdown. The play combined much of what makes him a special player – speed, cutting ability, and excellent football recognition.
He wasn’t asked to do a lot with his arm, but quarterback Brennan Kuebler made a nice throw on the run to Nelson – North’s most athletic offensive player. Kuebler made a second throw on the run to Nelson for seven yards. On 4th and a yard, Kuebler drove forward for a first down behind Hansen and Benhart.
“In the first half I had a good start, but I could have done better,” Division I recruit Benhart – who like the rest of the line must know how to play multiple offensive line positions – admitted. “The second half I started picking it up.”
If Edina’s Quinn Carroll is the top linemen in the 2019 class, Benhart is easily number two. Benhart is a massive offensive lineman but can move like a much smaller man. Like Benhart, the entire Panthers’ offensive line – Starin, Mason Malecha, Hansen, Benhart, and Joe Jaeger found its stride in the second half and overpowered the Eagles’ front seven.
“You win up front, and those guys battled on the line of scrimmage,” Lakeville North head coach Brian Vossen said. “They are special football players.”
The offense held its own, but the game was won on the defensive side of the ball.
Thomas Jensen held the edge on a sweep and forced a fumble that Will Mostaert recovered. Jensen again held the edge and pushed the runner back into the middle for Eli Mostaert to clean up for a loss. Later the corner read a throw into the flat and nearly picked it off.
Eli Mostaert ran down a screen pass the opposite side of the field. Later he wasn’t fooled by a misdirection play and forced the quarterback to throw short and incomplete. With the help of Ryan Mudgett, Mostaert blew up the running back in the hole for no gain.
“I thought I played good. The second half I got a little tired from playing both sides,” Eli – who also plays tight end – said, “but it was a good game for the team.”
Earlier Mudgett made a tackle for loss, and then Mudgett and Will Mostaert generated instant pressure up the middle get a sack for a ten-yard loss.
Later, Will Mostaert did it on his own using a speed rush to generate a sack. Against a running play, Mostaert was instantly in the backfield, dropping running back for a five-yard loss. The senior’s most impressive play of the night was a reverse he read and stuffed for no gain.
“I felt I played a very good game, Will said. “I did the assignments I needed to do, and we had a great team win.”
Defensive lineman Landon Carter was in the backfield much of the night. He got at least one solid hit on the quarterback and along with Eli Mostaert they combined for a tackle for loss.
Early in the game, fellow defensive lineman Preston Palmer beat a block and made a tackle for a three-yard loss. He did it again later in the first half. On another running play, he got into the backfield and forced the running back to the outside into his waiting teammates. Late in the game, he was in the backfield again and stuffed a run for a short gain.
The front seven dominated the line of scrimmage, but the secondary wasn’t bad either.
Erik Weckman prevented a completion with tight coverage on a deep ball down the middle of the field. He turned the game around on the first play of the second half when he picked off a pass down the middle of the field. He returned it 40 yards inside the ten to set up the Panthers’ first score.
Nelson made some plays on the offensive side of the ball but might have been better defensively. Assigned the task of covering EP’s most explosive player, Nelson had tight coverage at the corner spot all night. The junior gave up some throws underneath but was a sure tackler preventing any significant yardage after the catch. He only allowed one long completion, and even that took a throw that was almost perfect.
Also, in the secondary, Owen Dugan made an impressive open field tackle on the outside for a short gain on a pass to the flat and Jake Mills showed he could play tight one on one coverage on the outside.
Although the Panthers were helped – especially in the first half – with Eden Prairie mistakes, I don’t remember seeing a team handle the Eagles the way Lakeville North did on Friday night.