There was no magical fourth-down play. No defensive stop. No two-point conversion (miss or make).
This time, it was all St. Michael-Albertville when they squared off with Rogers High on the gridiron. And it was big plays from the Knights offense that provided the excitement.
STMA racked up more than 250 yards on three huge scoring plays – two by senior wideout Isaiah Weston – to lead them to a 26-7 blowout of the Royals for their second straight win of the season, and third straight win over their local rivals.
That sets up a huge showdown Friday night in Albertville, as Elk River comes to town with a 3-0 record and a shot at the No. 1 seed in section play.
“This is a new group, starting over, starting from scratch,” Weston said of the Knights offense, led by quarterback Jacob Viere. “We made way too many mistakes in the first game, but we did very well to be in the game and have the lead there in the third quarter. We think we’ve found some things now.”
Those “things” have been Viere finding mismatches on the edge and getting Weston the ball in the passing game, and the emergence of running backs like sophomore Mitchell Kartes and senior Eric Sjelin in the running game.
“If you look at the Moorhead game, it wasn’t the alignment or the assignment, which is something we talk about a lot going from practice to a game,” said head coach Jared Essler. “We did a good job, considering we had just a little over two weeks of practice to get ready for a really good opponent. With so many new players, that was promising for us. We walked off the field knowing that, with seven turnovers, you could really say we beat ourselves in that game.”
And that, Essler added, will be the key. As STMA comes together, it will be about how the Knights play, not what the opposition does, that will determine whether the Knights win or lose, Weston said.
“We have to take care of us,” he said. “We can’t worry about what the other guy is doing. We want to play our game and we think if we can do that, we really believe we can get back to state. That’s the expectation now every year.”
The key, then, will be stopping the Elk River running game. A team that’s passed for just 42 yards all year, ERHS racked up 570 yards against Cambridge in a 52-7 win. STMA was able to do it last year with a fantastic effort from the linebacking corps. This year, the linebackers are inexperienced, but the Knights do have standout Evan Ronsen and his team-leading 62 tackles pacing the defensive line.