Four big plays made a huge difference Friday, Sept. 10, as the Minnetonka High football team improved to 2-0 with a 28-3 victory over Blaine at Tonka’s Einer Anderson Stadium.
Blaine opened the scoring in the first quarter on Ryan Schweigert’s 25-yard field goal, which followed a 57-yard pass play from A.J. Kaul to Jordan Reynolds. A sack by Minnetonka tackle Jack Liwienski forced Blaine into that field goal try.
Before Minnetonka made the first of its four big plays, Jacob McCalla scored on a 3-yard run at 4:51 of the first quarter.
Big play No. 1 was a 49-yard pass and run play from Will Martin to Joey Gendreau, who broke a tackle, then beat the defender down the left sideline to the end zone. Keagan Zabilla’s second extra point of the game made the score 14-3. For the second week in a row, Zabilla booted all of his extra points.
Blaine had a long drive going late in the second quarter, but Minnetonka made big play No. 2 to take away a scoring chance. Defensive back Evan Swenson made an interception at the 6 yard line and the Skippers went into halftime with an 11-point lead.
Big play No. 3 came in the final two minutes of the third quarter when Skipper captain Andrew McCalla blocked a Blaine punt that gave Tonka possession at Blaine’s 38 yard line. The Skippers converted a fourth-and-2 on an 8-yard pass from Martin to Cade Conzemius. Then Gendreau scored his second touchdown on a 6-yard flip pass from Martin.
Big play No. 4 salted the win away when Swenson intercepted another pass - this one for a 30-yard pick six only 13 seconds after Gendreau’s second touchdown. Swenson’s two interceptions and a fumble recovery by defensive back Cosmo Gulon in the fourth quarter gave the Skippers three takeaways for the game.
Asked about the takeaways, Swenson said, “The pick-six was an easy read. I was able to jump it and take it in. It feels great to be 2-0, we’re just beginning though.”
Two years ago, when he was a sophomore, Gendreau started several games at quarterback. Now he’s happy to be on the receiving end of the passes.
“Will [Martin] is a great leader,” Gendreau said. “He is my captain and my quarterback. Will is very level-headed and he gets the job done. He worked out with the receivers all through the off-season.”
Gendreau added that he loved the game plan and how it was executed by the coaches and players Friday night.
“It’s great when you work on something in practice and then see it in a game,” he said. “We’re 2-0, and we deserve that. Everyone has put in so much effort - in the weight room, in the film room and on the field.”
Minnetonka head coach Mark Esch, who won two state championships with Mankato West before replacing the retired Hall-of-Fame Skipper coach Dave Nelson, said, “Our defense was able to stop the running game tonight, and we only gave up the one long pass.”
The only negative in the game from Tonka’s perspective was an abundance of penalties. One holding call cost the Skippers 42 yards in field position, and they ended up ending that series with a punt.
“We know we have to execute better against Maple Grove,” Esch said. “They are one of the best programs around.”
After playing at home the first two weeks of the season, Minnetonka faces its first road test this week. The kick-off will be at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 17, at the Maple Grove High School Stadium.