After Saturday’s upset over Rocori, the Sauk Rapids football team had its postgame meeting on the sidelines and veteran assistant coach John Rasmussen became emotional.
Rasmussen, the Storm’s defensive coordinator, started talking about how proud he was of his team after the 20-12 win over previously-unbeaten and second-ranked Rocori, the defending state Class 4A champion.
Some of the players shed a few tears, too, not expecting it from Rasmussen, an old-school coach known to yell quite a bit.
“That was a big one,” Rasmussen said afterward.
The Storm have another big one this week. They play St. Cloud Apollo at 7 p.m. Friday at Sauk Rapids. It’s homecoming and the first Hall of Fame induction class will be introduced at halftime.
Key to Saturday’s win was a three-man defensive front the Storm hadn’t used and constantly shifting their linebackers’ positioning in the win over the no-huddle Spartans. It helped break an eight-game losing streak.
“We did a lot of blitzing,” said senior linebacker Clayton Douvier, who helped lead Sauk Rapids’ defense. “And we were guarding the edges more.
“This is beautiful,” Douvier continued. “We’re an 0-4 team.”
Apollo knows all about playing well and not having a victory to show for it. The Eagles are 0-5 after a hard-fought, 28-14 loss to Brainerd. Apollo trailed 20-14 late in the fourth quarter against the Warriors (4-1).
“What a game,” Apollo head coach Justin Skaalerud said of the Storm’s win. “That interception (by Sauk Rapids junior Sam Wateland for a 64-yard touchdown) was a key and my goodness, they did a great job of taking advantage of opportunities.
“They had a fantastic game plan for Rocori, moving their linebackers around to cause confusion. They (the Storm) are a very well-coached team.”
Apollo is hoping to accomplish just that. Like the Storm, the Eagles have a long losing streak. Apollo has lost 22 straight games since a 13-6 win at Fergus Falls in the 2010 season-opener.
“We’ve played a lot of teams close and last week was pretty emotional for us,” Skaalerud said, noting there were a few tears after the Brainerd loss. “We still have the opportunity to win some football games and we’re a young team.”
Skaalerud said the Eagles have gotten consistently good defensive play, led by senior linebackers Lucas Stangler, Dylan Erickson-Thoemke and Brandon Bloch.
“Overall, they’ve been playing at a high level for four quarters,” Skaalerud said.
The Eagles have one significant player out. Offensive lineman Bryce Kirchner (5-11, 235, Jr.) is out with mononucleosis. Skaalerud said Sean Zyvoloski (5-7, 190, So.) did a nice job filling in.
Sauk Rapids’ players and coaches were delighted after Saturday’s win, the culmination of a long season of work that finally paid off. And Apollo?
“I’ll tell you about that one when it happens,” Skaalerud said.
When leading rusher Bo Schmitz went down with a knee injury on his first run from scrimmage, St. Cloud Cathedral went to Bryan Bowar as its featured back. The senior, who has been a standout at linebacker, did the job while pulling double-duty.
“He has just been unbelievable this year,” Cathedral head coach Dean Taylor said. “They’ve been double-teaming him at linebacker all year, sending two people at him.
“And then on offense (in a 35-28 loss at Princeton), we finally gave him the ball a few times and he runs through people, breaking tackle after tackle after tackle.”
Bowar rushed 21 times for 179 yards and three touchdowns. He’ll likely see the ball quite a bit when the Crusaders play at 7 p.m. Friday at Milaca.
Schmitz was to have an MRI Monday and Taylor wasn’t sure of his status, hoping it would be strained ligaments instead of serious ligament damage to his knee.
“It was kind of a strange injury in that no one touched him,” Taylor said. “He just planted his foot and went down.”
Cathedral is 1-2 in the Granite Ridge Conference and 2-3 overall. Milaca is 0-4 in the conference and 0-5 overall.
“Our offense has been playing pretty overall,” Taylor said. “On defense, we’re looking for some consistency.”
Going into Friday’s 35-28 loss to Fergus Falls, Sartell had been 4-0 and earned a 10th spot in the state Class 5A poll. The Sabres, however, had played four opponents who had yet to win a game. Apollo, Big Lake, Sauk Rapids and Grand Rapids were a combined 0-16.
That changed Friday. Sauk Rapids beat Rocori, of course. Big Lake (1-3 Mississippi 8, 1-4 overall) beat Duluth East 41-36.
* The state Class A cross country rankings came out Monday. St. Cloud Cathedral remains No. 1 in girls. Annandale moved into 10th and Holdingford is 11th. Individually, St. Cloud Christian’s McKenzie Holt is ranked fourth in state. Cathedral’s Rachel Eickhoff is ranked sixth and Annandale’s Courtney Alama is 10th. In the boys team rankings, Cathedral is second. Albany is ranked 12th. Individually, Foley’s Charlie Lawrence is No. 2, Cathedral’s Nick Golebiowski is ranked fifth and fellow Crusader Cole Wintheiser is eighth.