We’re making headlines today in St. Michael-Albertville. And, while you could say it’s for “all the wrong reasons,” really it’s just for losing a football game in historic fashion.
Which is less than, say, a fatal fire or a murder or something like that.
So, it could be worse. But I’m not going to be the one to tell the 60-plus 15, 16, 17 and 18-year-old young men who donned blue, gold and white for the last time this season right about now that “it could be worse.” Because, let’s face it, last night hurt.
In case you were under a rock, the St. Michael-Albertville Knights held a 27-10 lead on Maple Grove High, a Class 6A regular and a team that played one of the toughest schedules in the season this year. It was the quarterfinal game of the Class 6A tournament. And the Knights are playing their first season with the “big schools.”
Think about that for a second – less than a decade ago, we’re playing 4A out here “in the cornfields,” as one radio host on sports talk station likes to say.
Anyway, Maple Grove scored with about a minute left. And then recovered an onside kick, and scored again.
The fact THAT happened, to make it 27-22 with about 40 seconds left, was crazy enough. The fact Maple Grove recovered ANOTHER kick, drove the field and scored as time expired to make it 28-27 (later adding a PAT) is what makes this national news.
And forever, the Knights will say, they’ll wonder if they could have made one more play. Or if they could have had one more official throw a flag (one of the kicks was controversial, to say the least). Or if they could have pulled down one more interception.
What’s forgotten, however, is how far they came.
Without, inarguably, their top offensive senior – Mitchell Kartes – STMA won two playoff games in 6A and made the state tournament in its first season. It didn’t just roll up a 27-10 lead, it DOMINATED the first half against Maple Grove, outscoring them 14-3, out-running one of the state’s top rushing attacks, and being opportunistic on defense.
You knew the Crimson would wake up in the second half, and they did. MGHS scored first, but STMA countered. The Crimson drove again, but STMA answered with another big play.
Along the way this season, the Knights were one of the top defenses in 6A. Their only other loss was when Kartes went down – at homecoming, against a defending state champion in Totino Grace. They beat teams like Stillwater, Mounds View and Lakeville South. They shut down Hopkins in their first ever playoff win at this level.
And they closed down the old field at STMA Middle School West.
So, nationally … heck even regionally, it’ll be a team remembered for losing on a cold, dark November night because it couldn’t cover an onside kick, or knock down a crazy pass at the 1-yard line.
But, it should be remembered for a historical run, going 9-2 in their first 11 games with the “big boys,” and that it took almost every opportunity to make history and ran with it – except for this last one.
Congratulations to Jared Essler and his staff, the Knights seniors, and to all the kids who will be back on the field next fall. It was a heck of a ride, Knights. And as the high school fans chanted at the end of last night’s crushing loss …
“We still love you!”