Here’s what good football teams do: They don’t beat themselves. They make opponents pay for mistakes. And they come out on top in the most crucial of moments.
Totino-Grace didn’t gain any style points in its 21-14 victory at Blaine on Friday, but the Class 6A, No. 1 Eagles did all of the above, and that proved to be enough.
“We expect games like that,” Totino-Grace coach Jeff Ferguson said. “That was a good team over there. They played well. And we certainly had some teachable moments.”
Blaine was coming off a disappointing loss to Champlin Park the previous week and was without starting quarterback K.J. Downey, who was injured in the game. And things went smoothly for the Eagles for much of the first half. They took advantage of a Blaine fumble on the Bengals’ opening possession, needing just three plays to get a 7-0 lead on a 15-yard scamper by Ivan Burlak.
A second Blaine fumble turned into a 26-yard Kyle Halverson-to-Gayflor Flomo hookup and a 14-0 lead second-quarter lead.
Blaine, however, refused to go away. The Bengals went into halftime on a high note after a 24-yard touchdown reception by Kurtis Weigand cut the deficit to 14-7.
Blaine moved the ball steadily in the second half, but Totino-Grace’s defense stiffened in the red zone and twice the Bengals came away empty.
The Eagles bumped the lead to 21-7 in the fourth quarter when Burlak scored again after a muffed punt. “That’s what we have to do,” Burlak said. “The defense was keeping us in it.”
With Melton looking like a seasoned quarterback and running back Chase Harper finding ever-widening holes, Blaine cut the lead to 21-14 on a 9-yard reception by Sam Browne with 4:26 left.
The Bengals recovered the onside kick and moved to the Totino-Grace 18-yard-line in the final seconds, but two passes fell incomplete and Totino-Grace escaped with the victory.
“We just had to get back to our basics,” Blaine linebacker Charlie Waters said. “They made a good push. They’re a good team, too. But once we got back to our plan, we started making plays. That’s what our defense does.”