Crown College Storm Ride Early Wave To Down Martin Luther, 43-33
Crown College Head Football Coach John Auer talked earlier this week about the need for his team to get off to a quick start. The two previous weeks his team found themselves down early and he did not want to see that happen against Martin Luther College. His goal was to score early and score often, and let’s just say – mission accomplished.
The Crown College Storm had the ball for just two offensive plays and already had two touchdowns. It was an amazing start that had the team up by as many as 25-points at one point, but a late rally by the Knights brought them within four before the Storm were able to eat eight minutes off of the clock in the fourth quarter to win 43-33.
Crown won the coin toss and chose to receive. It was a brilliant choice. The Storm started their opening drive from their own 36-yard-line after a 19-yard return by Terrell Thomas. On the first play of the drive quarterback Brandon McCormick faded back to pass and found a streaking Trey Pearce heading down the right sideline. McCormick’s pass was on the mark and just 18 seconds into the game the Storm led 6-0.
Martin Luther responded right away. Starting from their own 27, the Knights moved the ball 73-yards in 11-plays, capping off the drive with a 10-yard pass from Matt Olson to Josh Rathje to tie the score at six. Running back Tim Keller was a key to the Martin Luther drive as he carried the ball four times for 31-yards.
The Storm responded right away themselves and it was the quick strike offensive that once again gave them the lead. Again, with the ball at their own 36, McCormick took the snap and this time handed to junior running back Matt Michaud. He went to his left and found a seam, then raced 64-yards for the score to put Crown College back on top 13-6.
This was the start of an impressive day for Michaud, who carried the ball just nine times, but rushed for 133 yards and 2 TD. While not surprised by his team’s early success in the contest, there were some reservations he had going in. “Our fullback got hurt last week, so it was a weird week just trying to get guys in to see how we were going to adjust. We brought a tight end over and I was doing some fullback work, so it was a weird week just trying to figure out who was going to be playing.”
While having the huge day, the junior was quick to credit his offensive line for his success. “The line was just unbelievable today. They just gave everything and had such a great day. My first touchdown they had such a great seal and I didn’t get touched the whole way there.”
Up 13-6 the defense of the Storm blew the Knights offense apart. Martin Luther was finding no room to run and they were creating turnovers that was giving their offense opportunities. The defense forced a three-and-out on the next series, giving the offense back the ball at their own 36 again.
This time, however, it would not be a quick strike attack. McCormick led his offense on a 7-play, 64-yard drive that ended when McCormick hit Terrell Thomas in the corner of the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown to make it 19-6. The Crown QB was brilliant on the drive, completing all three of his passes for 33 yards.
On the Knights next drive Eli Dahl recovered a fumble, but the Storm offense was not able to take advantage. The defense forced a three-and-out again, and this time McCormick and his offense would not be denied.
Starting from their own 25-yard-line, the offense moved 75-yards in 11-plays to make it 25-6. Junior running back Josh Edlund was the star of the drive, rushing four times for 27-yards, including a 5-yard touchdown, his first of the day. McCormick also contributed to the drive, this time with his legs, as he rushed three times for 24-yards.
Just before half Martin Luther had the opportunity to narrow the deficit, but an incredible goal line stop kept them out of the end zone as the half ended. The Knights began at their own 44, and at ate up all of the remaining 4:53 left on the clock, moving to the Crown six-yard-line with just 48 seconds left to play. It was first and goal from there, and when Tim Keller rushed up the gut for four yards on first down it looked like the touchdown was inevitable, but three straight stops denied Martin Luther a touchdown and made it a 19-point Crown College lead heading into half.
The first half was a lopsided affair but the second half was quite a bit different. It looked like much of the same at first, as the Crown College defense stopped the Knights on their opening possession of the second half, forcing them to turn over the ball on downs at their own 41-yard-line. Four plays later the Storm were back in the end zone courtesy of their two-headed running attack. Michaud started the drive with a 40-yard scamper, finally being tackled at the Martin Luther six. Three plays later Edlund scored from four-yards out to make it 31-6.
The Crown College Storm were rolling and the offense looked virtually unstoppable. Edlund could feel the offensive line was having their way with the Knights. “They did such a great job opening holes for us. They were so amazing how they played up front all game long.”
This game was looking like it was about to get completely out of hand, but Martin Luther had no quit in them. On their next possession they moved 67-yards in 11-plays before T.J. Babinec scored from 12-yards out to pull the Knights back within 18.
The MLC defense forced a three-and-out on Crown’s next possession, and the offense went back to work. Matt Olson completed two huge passes, the first to Joshua Arndt for 49-yards, and the second to Josh Rahje for 28-yards. Two plays later Olson kept the ball on the keeper and scored from one-yard out to make it 31-20.
Needing a big play McCormick responded immediately. Starting from their favorite position on the field, their own 34 (close enough to the 36), the Storm QB rushed for 15-yards on the first play, and then passed to Ben Olson for 8-yards. Two plays later McCormick found Eugene Hayes for 18-yards and then Try Peace for 16 more. Edlund then scored from 13-yards out for his third touchdown of the day.
Edlund had quite the impressive afternoon of his own. The junior rushed for 114 yards on 16 carries, including three touchdowns. “The offensive line was making a lot of room for me to run out there,” Edlund explained after the game.
That score came just as the third quarter ended, so the Knights entered the final frame down 37-20. They would score on their first possession of the final quarter, moving 48-yards in 9-plays. Tim Keller’s four-yard run for a touchdown pulled Martin Luther back within 11.
A fumble at the Crown 27 gave Martin Luther back the ball and they took full advantage. Olson found Arndt for a 28-yard score on the fifth play of the drive and just like that it was a four-point game.
What was once a blowout was now a nail-biter, and the Storm needed their offense to put this game out. This is where their two-headed running attack came through. Edlund carried the ball on each of the team’s first five plays of the drive, gaining 35 yards along the way. Edlund then combined with Michaud to hang onto the ball for five more plays. On the final play of the drive Michaud scored from 11-yards out to put it away. The 13-play drive took exactly eight minutes off the clock and ended any chance for a comeback by the Knights.
“That was the kind of drive you love to see as a coach,” Coach Auer explained after the game. “We were able to convert two big fourth downs because our offensive line played so well, and I told them that. They were a key to the game.”
Another key to the game was the play of McCormick, who looks more confident with each start. The senior had an unbelievable day, going 10-13 for 163-yards and 2 touchdown passes. He also gained 40 on the ground. Pearce was his primary target, making 3 catches for 88-yards and a touchdown.
Keller had 107-yards rushing and a touchdown for the Knights. Olson was 13-23 passing, for 236-yards and 2 TDs. He rushed for 94-yards and a TD as well. Arndt had 125-yards receiving and Rahtje had 75 more. Each caught a touchdown pass.
On defense, the Crown College Storm were led by Tyler Byrd who made 12-tackles. Brian Howard had 10 of his own. Jalen Phoenix made 9-tackles and had 2-pass breakups.
NOTE: Crown College Storm Football Fans. This Thursday we will be recording a weekly podcast show with Coach John Auer. If you would like to ask questions to be used during the show please email them to us at JohnAuer@MinorLeagueSportsReport.com. We look forward to hearing from you.
By Robert Pannier