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St. Louis Park survives Park Center, advances to section championship

By Adam Holt, SportsEngine, 10/28/17, 8:00AM CDT


The Orioles scored 21 points in the first half, but were shut out by the Pirates in the second half.

St. Louis Park quarterback Johnny Sorenson bursts through Park Center's defense on his way to a first quarter TD. Sorenson rushed for two TDs and passed for another in the Orioles' 21-18 win over the Pirates Saturday. Photo by Jeff Lawler, SportsEngine

St. Louis Park defensive back Karon Adams attacks a Park Center offensive play in the Class 5A, Section 5 semifinal Saturday afternoon. The Orioles advanced with a 21-18 victory over the Pirates. Photo by Jeff Lawler, SportsEngine

The last couple seasons were lean on wins for St. Louis Park. This year, the Orioles thought they had a chance to do some special things.

Now, they’ve helped back that feeling up by reaching a section final.

St. Louis Park went 5-3 in the regular season and earned the No. 2 seed in Class 5A, Section 5. On Saturday, the Orioles had to hold off a Park Center team intent on pulling another playoff upset after the Pirates had topped No. 3 seed Irondale 17-14 earlier in the week.

Instead of crumbling, the Orioles won 21-18, knocking down a Hail Mary pass on the final play of the game to advance.

“It’s exciting. It’s a credit to the kids, they’ve put in the work,” St. Louis Park coach Ben Wolfe said. “Things haven’t always been easy for us here.”

The Orioles went 1-8 in 2015 and were 1-7 in the 2016 regular season before earning a section win over Minneapolis Southwest to finish 2-8.

This year’s been different.

“It’s just awesome to see that the culture we’re trying to build is really starting to dig its roots, go deeper,” senior quarterback Jonny Sorenson said. “We’ve been working hard all year and we knew this team was special. It’s hard to put in words. It’s just like a brotherhood. We’re playing for the person next to us and we love each other. We support each other each play, and I think that’s carried us a long way this year.”

Against the Pirates, the Orioles went up 21-0 early. By halftime, it was 21-12, and Park Center got within a field goal with less than seven minutes to play in the fourth quarter. The offense killed just enough clock and the defense held on in the end to send the Orioles to their first section final since 2004.

“To be in this position, it’s really just a credit to the process and these guys coming to work every single day, having a good, positive attitude, and just finding a way to win close games — because our last couple have been pretty close ones,” Wolfe said.

St. Louis Park didn’t have much luck in the passing game, but Sorenson did work with his legs, rushing for 130 yards and two touchdowns.

The program hasn’t had had an abundance of close games the last couple of seasons, but now the Orioles have won four straight one-possession games in October.

“Credit to the guys, sometimes you get in those situations and they tighten up, you play not to lose,” Wolfe said. “We talked to them at halftime, we’ve got to come out and win this game. We did just enough to do that.”

St. Louis Park awaits the winner of Robbinsdale Cooper and Spring Lake Park in the section final. All the Orioles know is they get at least one more chance to keep proving themselves.

“I’m ecstatic. Section final; I don’t know the last time we’ve done that here at St. Louis Park,” Sorenson said. “It’s just good, now that everyone can see we are special, we are what we said we were.”

Park Center running back Emmanuel Tamba dives into the end zone late in the first half against St. Louis Park. The Pirates came up just short against the Orioles, losing 21-18 in St. Louis Park Saturday afternoon. Photo by Jeff Lawler, SportsEngine

First Report

Park Center had already sprung one upset in the playoffs, but St. Louis Park made sure it wouldn’t happen again. The second-seeded Orioles won a 21-18 Class 5A, Section 5 home semifinal game over No. 6 Park Center on Saturday afternoon.

It came down to the last play of the game, when Park Center (3-7) quarterback Jemal Brown’s heave to the end zone was knocked down.

The Orioles jumped to a 21-0 lead in the first two quarters, but the Pirates settled down before halftime. Brown scored on a 1-yard keeper with 6 minutes, 26 seconds left in the second quarter to pull the Pirates within 21-12.

St. Louis Park quarterback Jonny Sorenson scored two rushing touchdowns in the first half. The Orioles’ first touchdown came on a trick play, with Ryan Klaers throwing to Semaj Mitchell.

Sorensen rushed 14 times for 130 yards. Peyton Morrison and Adam Bauer contributed with interceptions on defense for St. Louis Park.

Brown was 14 of 31 passing for 192 yards, including a touchdown and an interception. Emmanuel Tamba rushed 19 times for 79 yards and a score.

St. Louis Park (6-3) advances to play the winner of Robbinsdale Cooper and Spring Lake Park in the section final.

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