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St. Paul Highland Park defeats Minneapolis Washburn in shortened game

By Adam Holt, SportsEngine, 09/15/17, 10:30AM CDT


Josh Aune had a big game for the Scots, but everyone's attention was on injured Millers quarterback Rory Purnell III.

St. Paul Highland Park senior Josh Aune pulls away from defenders on a 17-yard TD run against Minneapolis Washburn Friday night at Highland Park High School. The Scots defeated the Millers 21-12. Photo by Jeff Lawler, SportsEngine

It wasn’t an easy game in a number of ways. But each time, Josh Aune rose to the occasion.

Aune, a St. Paul Highland Park senior who’s committed to play at the University of Minnesota, had two touchdowns and a key fumble recovery as the Scots beat Minneapolis Washburn 21-12 Friday at home. But maybe the most telling action of the night by Aune had little to do with defense or offense.

With 2 minutes, 28 seconds left in the game, Washburn quarterback Rory Purnell III took a hard hit after a pass attempt and went down motionless. An ambulance was eventually called, and after a long wait, paramedics loaded Purnell onto a stretcher, after which the game was called.

As soon as it was apparent the injury looked serious, Aune gathered his team together on the side of the field for a prayer. He also went with teammates later to open gates so the paramedics had easy access to the field.

“I can be an athletic leader on the field, but I feel like it’s more important for me in that situation to be a social and spiritual leader and bring the people together,” Aune said. “My personal belief is when a lot of people get together and pray, it actually does something. That’s God, his blessings. That’s my personal belief.”

Purnell was the focus of the Scots defense, and while he was a threat to run, some of his biggest plays came through the air, like on a 27-yard touchdown pass for the first score of the game — which came on a fourth-down play.

Aune was there when the Scots needed plays, too. He had a 17-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to put Highland Park up 7-6. Lined up out wide, Aune helped block on a 31-yard jet sweep by Seth Zeitchick for a score in the third as well.

A week ago, Aune ran for more than 300 yards and scored six times. It wasn’t as easy this time out.

In the fourth quarter, with Highland Park holding a 13-12 lead, Aune blitzed and recovered a fumble. While the Scots punted on the series, they pinned the Millers back in their own territory, and on that possession, forced a turnover on downs. Aune then ran in a 15-yard touchdown and followed with a two-point conversion score to make it 21-12. He finished with 16 carries for 79 yards and two TDs.

“We haven’t used him as a decoy,” Scots coach Dave Zeitchick said. “That hasn’t been our plan. Our plan has been to give him the ball. But on all of our outside runs, he’s our lead blocker. He’s an integral part of every play, whether he’s getting the ball or not getting the ball. Same with defense. We needed a big play at the end of the game; we hadn’t blitzed him all game, and we blitzed him and he got the fumble. That kind of clinched the game for us.”

“The truth of the matter is, when I get 28 carries for 334 yards, they’re going to key off me,” Aune said. “That opened up a lot of opportunities for other guys. They’re going to key off me when I go into a wide receiver set. I block and another guy gets a touchdown. That’s awesome. If my production can help somebody else score a touchdown, that’s huge too.”

His counterparts on Washburn were big as well. Kevin Olive had 14 carries for 99 yards. Purnell went 10 of 16 passing for 119 yards and a touchdown, including completions of 27, 16 and 37 yards.

“We knew we had to stop No. 3 [Purnell],” Zeitchick said. “We knew everything we talked about was, it started with stopping the quarterback. He’s a phenomenal athlete. We did a decent job of that tonight.”

The Highland Park victory snapped a losing streak to Washburn dating back to 2009 and spanning five regular-season games. And while the win was important for the Scots, there is a focus on Purnell’s health.

“You hope and pray that none of that stuff ever happens,” Aune said. “We give No. 3 on their team our best. We were praying for him on the field and I hope he makes a speedy recovery, absolutely. Unfortunately it’s a part of the game that we risk our bodies to go out and play. We take that risk, and it’s. Horrible to see. At the same time, it’s part of the game. The ref came over and said it was a clean hit and a clean play. We’re happy we came out with a win tonight and we’re so sad about the player.”

“We play Washburn a lot,” Zeitchick said. “I love their coaching staff, they’re a great program. We love playing each other because it’s always this kind of game. I think that hurts all of us. It was a terrible way to end the game. It definitely takes something out of it; you’re not going to celebrate after that. But again, I have a lot of respect for Washburn.”

Highland Park junior Ashlin Schultz-Perry goes after a Washburn fumble in the first quarter Friday night in St. Paul. The Scots defeated the Millers 21-12. Photo by Jeff Lawler, SportsEngine

First Report

It wasn’t easy, but Josh Aune found a way to fight for yards. And a victory.

Aune scored two touchdowns and a two-point conversion as St. Paul Highland Park beat Minneapolis Washburn 21-12 at home in a Twin Cities Maroon subdistrict matchup on Friday.

Aune, a Highland Park senior who committed to the University of Minnesota, scored a game-clinching touchdown on a 15-yard run with 2 minutes, 41 seconds to play. He then ran in a conversion to give the Scots a 21-12 lead.

Aune had 79 rushing yards, including a 17-yard touchdown with 9:01 to go in the second quarter that put the Scots up 7-6 after a successful extra point.

Kavin Olive was a workhorse for Washburn (2-1, 1-1), with 14 carries for 99 yards.

Seth Zeitchick took a jet sweep 31 yards for a touchdown with 6:41 to go in the third, putting the Scots (2-1, 2-0) ahead 13-12. They never trailed again.

Washburn quarterback Rory Purnell III found Damon Neubert for a 27-yard TD on a fourth-down play to give the Millers a 6-0 lead at 8:01 of the first. Purnell added a 2-yard score in the second to cap a drive started by a Peyton Krause interception as Washburn went up 12-7.

The game ended with 2:28 remaining in the fourth quarter when Purnell was hurt on a play and had to be put in an ambulance. Purnell was 10 of 16 passing for 119 yards and a touchdown.

Washburn senior Damon Neubert hauls in a 27-yard touchdown in the first quarter against Highland Park Friday night in St. Paul. The Millers fell to the Scots 21-12. Photo by Jeff Lawler, SportsEngine

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