For Blaine coach Ben Geisler, there was little doubt about who was responsible for a 14-7 win at St. Michael-Albertville (0-2, 0-1) Friday night.
“Defense won the game tonight, no question about it,” Geisler said. “[St. Michael-Albertville] had one big play where they scored a touchdown. Other than that, we had a lot of big stops, and our offense struggled a bit, but our defense really played tough tonight.”
The Bengals, ranked No. 8 in the Class 6A Associated Press poll, stifled the Knights all night, coming up with a turnover and multiple fourth-down stops -- leading to their first league win.
The Blaine (2-0, 1-0) defense set up the first score after Tony Strand took an interception 52 yards to get the offense started inside the red zone. Quarterback Jack Haring kept the ball on a read option and scored from 2 yards out to take the early lead. Haring was key to the only other Bengal touchdown -- a 10-yard pass to Jason Kaul, securing the win.
While the offense struggled overall, the Bengals moved the ball more consistently in the second half and controlled the pace of the game. Blaine often turned to Will Fredrickson late in the game, as 68 of his 102 rushing yards came in the second half.
“I think we wore them down a little bit,” Geisler said. “When you got a good defense and you don’t have to score, you want to flip the field and play the field position game.”
When the Bengals needed big stops, they got them. But despite picking up the win on the back of a strong defensive effort, Geisler still wants more out of his team.
“We like to put points on the scoreboard, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “We’ve won two games but I don’t think we’ve been lights out in either one, which, to me, if you can play not your best football and still win games, then you only have the ceiling to go up from there.”
Blaine’s defensive strategy put STMA at a disadvantage all night, frustrating a team that entered the season with high expectations.
After surprising many Minnesota football-watchers with their success in moving up to Class 6A last year, the Knights opened this season by dropping two straight. After the game, senior captain Desean Phillips was the first person to confront the team, giving an impassioned speech before coach Jared Essler addressed the players.
“(Phillips) was voted a captain by our team, so I know our kids respect him,” Essler said. “When those kids that have the respect of their peers speak up, then those kids are going to listen.”
Phillips scored the Knights’ lone touchdown, an 80-yard reception from Jared Duda. Phillips ran a clean wheel route out of the backfield and into open space after he making an over-the-shoulder catch. Phillips finished with 143 total offensive yards -- 44 rushing and 99 receiving yards on three receptions.
Now the Knights will try to recover after what they see as a disappointing start. For Essler, it’ll be about working hard and trying to get his team to play to its potential.
“I just told the team that underneath those blue jerseys there’s a good team in there, even though the record says they’re 0-2,” he said. “This is 6A football, there’s good teams and we’ve had two tough losses so we have to keep working and see if we can get this ship turned in the right direction.”
Blaine (2-0, 1-0) picked up an important 14-7 win Friday over St. Michael-Albertville to start its Metro North season.
In a low-scoring first half, the Bengals defense shifted the momentum that led to the only touchdown of the half. Defensive back Tony Strand, a senior, intercepted a Knights’ pass and returned it 52 yards, setting up a two-yard touchdown run by quarterback Jack Haring, who ran 12 times for 48 yards.
St. Michael-Albertville (0-2, 0-1) responded in the second half after a Blaine missed field goal. Taking over at their own 20, Knights quarterback Jared Duda found Desean Phillips for an 80-yard touchdown pass to even the game at 7.
Duda completed 11 of 25 pass attempts for 176 yards and a touchdown.
But the Bengals, ranked No. 8 in the Class 6A Associated Press poll, responded minutes later, retaking the lead -- and the eventual game-winner -- on a 10-yard connection from Haring to Jason Kaul. Haring completed 13 of 16 passes for 96 yards.
Blaine running back Will Frederickson ran for 102 yards on 22 carries.
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