St. Michael-Albertville's Cole Jann (84) and Grant Schoen (38) bring down Centennial quarterback Ryan Koob late in the first half Friday night. The Knights' defense pitched a shutout with a 23-0 road victory. Photo by Drew Herron, SportsEngine
STMA senior quarterback Marcus Krupke completed 5-of-8 pass attempts for 110 yards and one touchdown. Photo by Drew Herron, SportsEngine
The jump from Class 5A to Class 6A football in itself was going to be a challenge for St. Michael-Albertville. The opponents on the schedule had the potential to make that first year against the biggest schools in the state even tougher.
So far, no worries.
St. Michael-Albertville faced its third consecutive ranked opponent on Friday, handing Centennial a 23-0 homecoming loss on a hot night to stay unbeaten. The Knights, ranked fourth in 6A by the Associated Press, handled the fifth-ranked Cougars’ option attack, limiting them to 106 rushing yards.
It was the third road game in four weeks for the Knights (4-0), who took an early lead on a safety and never trailed on night when game time temperatures across the metro were near 90.
“I was proud of our kids,” St. Michael-Albertville coach Jared Essler said. “We knew the weather was going to be tough, the homecoming atmosphere was going to be tough, the quality of opponent was going to be tough. The option offense is something that’s really hard to replicate with your scout team. We knew all of those variables were going to be hard, and that’s why I’m so proud of our kids for playing really tough.”
The teams entered the matchup with vaunted rushing attacks, and both defenses were largely up to the challenge.
Early on, Knights senior quarterback Marcus Krupke was the difference, making some big passes to help move the chains. He completed 5 of 8 passes for 104 yards and a touchdown, with completions of 42, 28 and 19 yards.
With backs Mitch Kartes (15 rushes for 67 yards and a touchdown) and Desean Phillips (16 carries, 90 yards) attracting attention, Krupke made the most of his chances.
This balance has St. Michael-Albertville doing what it’s been doing for years at the Class 5A level: playing winning football.
“We’re just playing football, we’re playing well,” Krupke said. “We’re coming out and we’re going to compete with anyone. We’re going to put all of our coins in a row and just go at anybody in the state.”
The wins thus far are impressive — at Mounds View, at then-No. 3 Blaine, at home against then-No. 3 Champlin Park and at No. 5 Centennial. The Cougars hadn’t trailed at any point in the season prior to Friday and were coming off a game in which they held Anoka to 29 yards of total offense.
The Knights didn’t pile up many big runs until late against Centennial (3-1), but field position and two turnovers — an interception by Xavier Thurman and a fumble recovery to stall a Cougar drive at the Knights’ 15-yard line — helped St. Michael-Albertville grind out a victory.
There are more chances for signature victories as the season goes on, starting with a visit from defending 6A champion Totino-Grace next week.
“I’m so excited,” Krupke said. “We’re going to take it day by day and we’re going to get better and better. Hopefully it’s going to keep going.”
After the game, Essler warned his team they’re not going to sneak up on anyone anymore. That’s just fine by the undefeated Knights.
“Right now, we’re going to get people’s best shot,” Essler said. “It’s fun, that’s why you compete. Play the best, that’s when you find out something about yourself.”
Centennial senior running back Sam Bonfe finished with 28 yards in 11 carries in the Cougars' 23-0 home loss to St. Michael-Albertville. Photo by Drew Herron, SportsEngine.
St. Michael-Albertville’s schedule in its first year of playing in Class 6A is ripe with opportunities for signature wins. So for the third week in a row, the Knights earned one over a ranked opponent, this time on the road.
St. Michael-Albertville defeated Metro North subdistrict foe Centennial 23-0 in a matchup Friday of the top-5 teams in the Associated Press Class 6A poll, spoiling the Cougars’ homecoming.
Both teams came in with dominating run games, and both squads saw those ground attacks limited in a close game that came down more to field position and big defensive stands.
The fourth-ranked Knights’ Mitchell Kartes, a North Dakota State commit, was averaging almost 10 yards per carry in the game, but was held to 15 carries for 67 rushing and a touchdown against the No. 5 Cougars.
Centennial (3-1, 2-1) hoped to wear down St. Michael-Albertville (4-0, 3-0) with its Veer offense, but the Knights held strong, limiting both Cougars quarterback Ryan Koob and running back Sam Bonfe. Koob had 16 carries for 53 yards, and Bonfe was held to 11 rushes for 28 yards.
A safety started the scoring, and quarterback Marcus Krupke found Desean Phillips for a touchdown on a 2-yard play-action pass with 24 seconds to go in the first quarter to give the Knights a 9-0 lead. Kartes added a 3-yard run for a TD with 39 seconds to play in the second quarter.
Matt Feldick added a 15-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth.
Centennial’s first two drives of the second half resulted in turnovers, one coming on a fumble at the Knights' 15-yard line -- the Cougars’ best possession of the night up to that point.
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