Micha Vayee of Maple Grove ran for a touchdown as IBK Mafe of Blaine pursued in the first half. Photo: LEILA NAVIDI • email@example.com
Matt Lombardi was concerned going into Thursday evening.
The Maple Grove coach had watched his team dismantle Edina in its season opener, but then follow it up with a week of lackluster practices. A similar effort against Blaine wasn’t going to cut it.
“We have a lot of young guys, like 14, 15 underclassmen, and they still have to learn how to practice, how to do the little things to get into that championship mode,” Lombardi said.
What the Crimson did on the field went a long way toward easing his concerns. The defense stifled Blaine early, the offense built a 20-0 first-half lead and the Crimson held on for a 26-14 victory to improve to 2-0.
The difference maker for Maple Grove was the one player Lombardi said “had a great week of practice.” Senior running back Michael Zupke got better as the game went on and carried the load for Maple Grove in the fourth quarter as it was fighting off a Blaine challenge.
“That’s why I rode him,” Lombardi said. “Last week, he had seven carries, but he was about the only one who had a great week. He jumped out. He prepared the best.”
Quarterback Nate Elmes scored on two short touchdown runs and Micha Vayee scored on a 35-yard run to get Maple Grove started in a 26-14 victory over Blaine.
Elmes sandwiched his scores around Vayee’s in the first half as the Crimson defense held the Bengals in check to build a 20-0 lead.
Blaine broke through with a drive before halftime, scoring on a screen pass to Josh Schlangen for a 21-yard touchdown.
Blaine tightened the game in second half, scoring early in the fourth quarter on a 23-yard pass to Dylan Meyers, making it 20-14 game.
But the Crimson thwarted the comeback effort late in the quarter when senior running back Michael Zupke scored from 9 yards out for the final touchdown.
Check back later for more on the game.