Prior to kickoff at Robbinsdale Armstrong High School on Wednesday, the feeling of celebration was in the cool air. It was senior night for the Falcons as they celebrated all things seniors, including football players, cheerleaders, band members and dancers.
But by the time the night ended, it was the visitors — the Panthers from Spring Lake Park — that were celebrating. The Panthers came in and handed the Falcons their second loss in as many weeks behind a physical rushing attack and some timely defense in the second half as Spring Lake Park finished off the regular season with a 21-6 win.
Spring Lake Park (6-2) was able to quell any excitement with a consistent rushing attack that seemed to lull the home crowd to sleep at times. The Panthers ate up the clock with a running game led by senior quarterback Bradyen Talso.
“Sometimes, I’m sore after games, but it pays off,” Talso said. “We live and breathe the run.”
Talso’s consistent rushing helped his team throughout the night. He carried the ball 24 times for 139 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The first from 37 yards and the second from seven. He also caught a touchdown pass on a reverse play from wide receiver Mikey Say.
“He’s a football player who happens to play quarterback,” Spring Lake Park coach John Stewart said of Talso. “He knows in what we do that he has to be willing to take hits, but he also dishes them out. It’s fun to have a guy like that.”
The offensive push led to Spring Lake Park leading 21-0 as halftime approached. However, Robbinsdale Armstrong (6-2) responded before the half ended. The Falcons raced to the end zone and capped things off with a 1-yard touchdown run by Kevon Johnson with 20 seconds remaining in the half to make it 21-6.
“When they went down and marched it in, we were like, ‘OK, fellas, it can happen that fast,’” Stewart said. “We knew we had to have another strong 24 minutes.”
It looked like Robbinsdale Armstrong might build on that late half score as the Falcons drove deep into Spring Lake Park territory early in the third quarter. However, the Falcon defense held firm and got the ball back without giving up any more points.
That early drive foreshadowed what would happen for Robbinsdale Armstrong throughout the second half. The Falcons had the ball in the red zone three separate times and came away with zero points. Spring Lake Park’s defense accomplished that behind 3 sacks and a pair of fumble recoveries in the second half.
“Our defense really rose to the occasion,” Stewart said. “Those stops were huge for us as a team and them as a unit for them to see how it all comes together.”
Though the Panther offense did not score at all in the second half, they did milk enough clock to help cement the win over Robbinsdale Armstrong, ranked No. 9 in Class 5A by the Associated Press. It’s Spring Lake Park’s first win in three tries against ranked opponents.
“We’ve battled and battled,” Stewart said. “To see that when you do what you’re supposed to be doing and improving each week that things will come around on the other side of it.”
Both Stewart and Talso agreed that this win can bring some confidence for Spring Lake Park, which will look to ride a strong defense and a consistent rushing attack to postseason success.
“This gives us huge confidence,” Talso said. “Going into sections, we’re excited.”
Spring Lake Park jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first half on the road at Robbinsdale Armstrong, and the Panthers never looked back as they held down the Falcons to win 21-6 on Wednesday.
Spring Lake Park (6-2) took control of the game with long, time-consuming possessions filled with a rushing attack led by quarterback Brayden Talso. The senior was the leading rusher with 24 rushes for 139 yards. He opened the scoring with a 37-yard touchdown run and followed it with a 7-yard score.
In the second quarter, the Panthers broke out a rare pass. However, it was Talso doing the catching. Wide receiver Mikey Say got the ball on a reverse and unleashed a pass to Talso, who ran it in for a 29-yard score to make it 21-0. The 29-yard pass was one of four attempted by Spring Lake Park, which relied on a rushing attack that produced more than 250 yards.
Robbinsdale Armstrong (6-2) found some momentum late in the first half when the Falcons, ranked No. 9 in Class 5A by the Associated Press, got on the board with 20 seconds remaining when Kevon Johnson rushed for a 1-yard score to make it 21-6.
In the second half, neither team found the end zone. For Armstrong, that wasn’t from lack of chances. The Falcons had the ball in the red zone three times but could not come away with any points. Senior defensive lineman Kyree Shaw came through with a pair of sacks in the fourth quarter to stall one of the Armstrong drives that went deep into Spring Lake Park territory.
Besides the play of Shaw, Spring Lake Park also turned over Armstrong twice on fumble recoveries.
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