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SLP vs Andover - Section Semifinals
October 30, 2012By Jane Olinger of Spring Lake Park Football
Football: Andover conversion falls short against Panthers to set up another Totino finale
Fans inside Panthers Stadium were treated to an action-packed finish as Spring Lake Park held on for a 27-26 win against Andover in the Section 4-AAAAA football semifinal Oct. 27.
Andover bookended the rare Saturday afternoon game with touchdowns as junior quarterback Connor Wilkie found Austin Lorch on the third offensive play of the game for a 74- yard touchdown 51 seconds into the game. The score was the first of three passing touchdowns for Wilkie, who three his third touchdown pass to Tyler Evans from 24 yards out to make it a one-point game, 27-26, with 1:26 remaining.
Andover coach Rich Wilkie decided to go for the two-point conversion and the lead, rather than kick the extra point to tie the game.
Wilkie had a great reason to go for the win as Andover was able to move the ball through the air. “I really thought it was the momentum we had, going 70 yards in 1:30, but we had a lot of philosophies going into extra points, being on the road in sections, we had the play I wanted to go for the win. I wouldn’t change the call,” Wilkie said. “Most teams play man [coverage] in that area and it works much better if they play man and they played a soft zone and saw the crossing action better.”
Connor sent a looping pass into the corner of the endzone where Lorch was headed. As the receiver reached out for the ball, Spring Lake Park’s Ryan Amundson knocked it to loose to end the threat and preserve the slim lead.
Panthers coach Jeff Schlieff said, “We call it a fence defense and they line up like a fence and don’t let anything through.”
That final play capped a wild fourth quarter when Spring Lake Park outscored Andover 15-12.
Spring Lake Park dominated the time of possession (32:57-15: 03) with a big chunk of that coming in the second half opening drive. The Panthers took the ball 85 yards on 15 plays in its patented five-yard per play form and took seven minutes, 45 seconds off the clock in the process to make cut the lead to 14-12. Spring Lake Park’s Jared Evans scored his second touchdown of the afternoon on a similar play up the middle this time from 13 yards out. He scored from 10 yards out in the first quarter en route to a team-high 21 carries for 103 yards.
Schlieff said the long drive did a lot to keep his team fresh. “We have a lot of two-way guys and when they come out fresh we can play with anybody,” he said. “When they start to get a little tired our offense sputters a little because it all starts with the big guys up front. If they’re not moving the pile we then we don’t get much going. That happened in the second quarter a little, but that really set the tone to come out in the second half.”
One of the players that is a key on both sides of the ball is junior Eji Ejiya. Offensively he had 19 carries for 73 yards and as a linebacker in the middle of the defense he contributed greatly with key tackles and knocked down a couple passes in the process. He was out there for the two-point conversion and said the team was lucky to have Amundson in the right position at the right time. “We were looking for play-action and our defense played it well,” Ejiya said.
Andover’s quick-strike attack made it 14-6 at 2:37 before halftime with a little trickery as running back Derek McLaughlin hit receiver Tyler Evans on a halfback pass for a 62-yard score. The Panthers defense moved in on McLaughlin as Evans broke down the sideline past the Panthers secondary. McLaughlin hit Evans in stride at the 15-yard line in front of the Huskies sideline.
“That was a play we had in our back pocket and the cornerback bit really hard and it was one of those things where [Evans] was almost too open that it made it a tough throw,” Wilkie.
That was one of the final plays for the Huskies before the fourth quarter. Andover only ran three offensive plays in the third quarter, but still led 14-12 after three quarters.
Wilkie found Chris Larson less than two minutes into the fourth quarter on a 62-yard strike to make it 21-12.
Spring Lake Park seemed to have momentum as backup, turned starting quarterback Austin Swenson took an option-keeper 11 yards in for the score after his only completion went 39 yards to set up the score. Aaron Murphy caught the pass as he sprinted past the Huskies secondary into the open field for the big reception. The score ignited the Panthers sideline and bleachers in a loud roar for the first time as the home team tied the game 20-20 with 5:34 left. Evans ran the ball in for the two-point conversion.
That passion remained when a botched punt return by Andover ricocheted off the returner, skipped back toward the end zone where both sides had trouble collecting the ball before Panthers junior Tyreese Jackson finally fell on the ball in the end zone for six points. The score, followed by the extra point kick, made it 27-26 with 2:47 to go.
Andover needed just over a minute to march down on what appeared to be a tired Panthers defense. The Huskies used quick-fire passes to Evans and Larson to set up the final score. Wilkie found Evans on a crossing route in the corner of the end zone to tie the game 26-26 with 1:26 left. The two-point attempt fell incomplete and ended the Huskies hopes of another section final appearance.
Spring Lake Park travels to Totino-Grace to continue what has developed into quite a rivalry with the Eagles. The two met twice in 2010-11 with Totino winning both times, including the section final also played in Fridley, 32-6. Totino has ended the Panthers season from 2007 to 2010.