Chanhassen made the first stop on its season-long travel itinerary a good one, beating South St. Paul 27-13 at venerable Ettinger Field in South St. Paul.
Forced to play all of its games away from home because of soil erosion under the bleachers and fielding a lineup filled with newcomers, Chanhassen looked shaky early. Thing is, so did South St. Paul, which lost 19 starters from its 2013 team.
Not surprisingly, both teams bumbled their way through a scoreless first quarter. It was obvious that the team that settled in first would have a big advantage.
That team was Chanhassen, which scored first on a 43-yard pass from senior quarterback Maxon Hutton to Cole Kirchoff. The Storm led 7-0, a lead it would take into the locker room at halftime.
South St. Paul had similar problems establishing its trademark veer offense.
"That's a great team over there," said Hutton. "At halftime, we just wanted to come out and play like was 0-0."
South St. Paul tied the game 7-7 on its first possession when quarterback Dan Pietruszuski ran through nearly the entire Chanhassen defense on a 23-yard touchdown run.
Chanhassen answered immediately on a perfectly thrown 57-yard touchdown pass from Hutton to Kenyon Brannon. Two plays later, South St. Paul fumbled deep in its own territory and Hutton turned that into a touchdown on an 8-yard fade pass to Chad Mapes.
In a span of 1:25, Chanhassen had turned a tie game into a comfortable 19-7 lead.
"Huge momentum boost," said Hutton, who finished with 167 yards and three touchdowns passing and another 78 rushing. "There were a lot of jitters coming over here, but we came together and settled down."
South St. Paul showed glimpses of the team it wants to be but made too many mistakes. Pietruszuski, also a first-year starter, tried to carry the Packers on his shoulders and nearly did, rushing for 73 yards and both touchdowns and adding 141 yards through the air.
But he also tossed a pair of interceptions — one in the shadow of the Chanhassen goal line in the first half — and was stopped short of the end zone on fourth-and-goal on their final possession of the game.
Afterward, Chanhassen coach Bill Rosburg said the good things his team did outweighed the not so good.
"We have some things we'll have to iron out, but I think it was pretty typical of a first game," he said. "The main thing is that we finished it out. Hutton showed us something. He had a good game tonight. I think he'll have some great ones before the season is over."