Spring Lake Park (uarterback Grant Walter (8) attempted to outrun Irondale defenders in the first half of Friday's game. Photo: Marlin Levison * firstname.lastname@example.org
Brawny on defense, beastly on offense.
In a battle between the North Suburban Conference’s two unbeaten teams, Spring Lake Park asserted itself Friday night with a 32-13 victory over Irondale at home in a thorough performance on both ends of the football.
With the victory, Spring Lake Park captured the Block Trophy, which symbolizes the rivalry that the teams have established in recent years.
There’s a reason the Panthers have climbed to the No. 2 ranking in Class 5A. Friday’s game did little to extinguish that buzz.
After a slow start, coach Jeff Schlieff’s club strung together 32 unanswered points to bury the Knights. Ejodamen Ejiya ran for 241 yards on 19 carries, including two big-play touchdowns.
“He’s a special ballplayer,” Schlieff said. “He’s as good as they get. He doesn’t come off the field, and he’s only a junior, so that’s pretty exciting.”
Visiting Irondale started the scoring when Sam Yankey ran in from 24 yards out. It was the first touchdown the Panthers allowed in the first half all season.
It also would be the last points they allowed until the fourth quarter Friday night. Spring Lake Park’s defense chased Irondale behind the line of scrimmage for much of the rest of the evening.
“We have an outstanding defense,” Schlieff said. “It’s as good as we’ve ever had.”
The Panthers offense responded with key fourth-down conversions. Richie Toweh took a sneaky reach-around handoff from quarterback Austin Swenson, cut up the middle and battled through defenders for a 16-yard score on a fourth-and-6 play. Ejiya converted the next key fourth down and followed it with a 21-yard rushing touchdown to give the Panthers a 12-7 lead into the half.
In the third quarter, Gabe Dahl took a reverse 45 yards for a touchdown. Ejiya added a 68-yard rushing touchdown. Jared Evans punched in from 1 yard out to cap a powerful rushing display that would move the Panthers to 6-0.
Irondale’s final touchdown came on a 12-yard pass from Justus Canfield to AJ Myles.