It was a miserable, wet night at Eastview High School as the Lightning and the Robbinsdale Armstrong Falcons kicked off for the start of the Class AAAAAA playoffs.
Both teams struggled with the conditions, but the Lightning’s defense and special teams set the home team up with a lead that it would never give up – winning the game 21-12.
The special teams all but handed the Lightning their first points of the game.
Derek Rauch returned the opening kickoff to midfield. Although the offense didn’t score they picked up a pair of first downs and punter Connor Smith pinned the Falcons back inside the five-yard line. The defense forced a three and out.
With the Falcons’ punter standing with his heels on the end line the Lightning blocked the punt for a touchdown.
Eastview continued to move the ball throughout the first half, but fumbles short-circuited drives.
Armstrong would take advantage. A 75-yard touchdown run by Jake Breitbach cut the Eastview lead to one.
Behind physical running by running back Quintcy Suggs, the Lightning answered back. The running game moved the ball into the red zone, and Isaiah Misukanis would cash in from 16-yards out.
The Eastview defense bent, but didn’t break all night — especially as the clock ticked down at the end of the first half.
In what turned out to be the biggest moment of the game, Armstrong put together a long drive to close the half. During the drive, the Falcons converted three fourth downs – all needing more than five yards for the first down.
They did not get a fourth. The Falcons were out of timeouts, but they had a first and goal at the one-yard line. A tackle for no gain on first down, an incompletion on second forced a third-and-goal. Armstrong’s Breitbach attempted a rollout pass, but the Lightning defense put pressure on the quarterback and sacked him for a big loss.
With the clock running down Armstrong tried one more throw but as the clock hit zero, the pass fell harmlessly on the soggy grass.
As the game wore on, the Eastview running game was getting more traction. Suggs’ 42-yard touchdown run – giving the Lightning a 21-6 lead – seemed to be the nail in the Armstrong coffin. But Armstrong was not done.
Breitbach scored his second rushing touchdown of the game late in the fourth quarter, but the two-point conversion was not successful – keeping the game a two-score affair. A quick three and out gave the Falcons the ball back. They appeared to be heading for another touchdown as a receiver broke free down the middle of the field. The Lightning defense came up big one more time. A forced fumble by a trailing Eastview defender ended Armstrong’s final hope to get back into the game.
With the 21-12 victory, the Lightning earned a second playoff game and a trip to East Ridge next Friday night.