Week 4 Recap: Minnetonka
It was déjà vu for the Lakers as they once again allowed 14 early points to an opponent, this time it was to second-ranked Minnetonka, who defeated Prior Lake 27-8 Sept. 22 at Dan Patch Stadium.
**To clarify from last week’s story, Minnetonka was ranked second at the time in the Class 6A AP poll but third in the Star Tribune’s metro rankings**
The game started with some excitement from the Laker offense on the second play from scrimmage when running back Jordan Johnson found a hole in the middle of the Skipper defense.
Johnson sprinted for over 20 yards on the play but a Minnetonka defender pulled the ball from his arms, giving the Skippers possession inside the Laker 40-yard line.
Minnetonka then put together a methodical 10-play drive, ending with a 1-yard score by running back Adam Livingston.
The Skippers missed the extra point, making the score 6-0 about halfway through the first quarter.
Prior Lake went three-and-out on its next drive and was forced to punt.
Minnetonka proceeded to march down the field on an 11-play 57-yard drive, converting two third downs and getting another first down on a Laker offside penalty.
Livingston ran into the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown on the play following the penalty and the Skippers converted on the two-point conversion, putting the score at 14-0 just over a minute into the second quarter.
“No matter who you’re playing, if you can get out of the gate a little quicker and score some points early, that changes the whole momentum of the game,” Prior Lake coach Matt Gegenheimer said. “Unfortunately for us, the last couple weeks we’ve spotted our opponent 14 points and you just can’t do that, especially against good teams.”
Both defenses held the opposing offense at bay over the next few possessions and as a result the Lakers had good field position after cornerback Jaden Dorn jumped the route of a Minnetonka receiver and intercepted quarterback Aaron Syverson’s pass, giving Prior Lake the ball near midfield.
A few plays later, the Laker offense was facing a third-and-two at the Minnetonka 33-yard line but quarterback Ryan Schipper was sacked for a 10-yard loss, forcing another Prior Lake punt.
The score remained 14-0 at halftime.
The Skippers struck quickly in the third quarter, getting yards in bunches on their first few offensive plays, highlighted by 43-yard run by Livingston.
Syverson scored a few plays later on a quarterback draw to make it 20-0 Skippers after another missed extra point.
The play of the night for the Lakers came on the ensuing kickoff when kick returner Keaton Schroeder fielded the ball on a hop at the 15-yard line, broke a tackle and took off down the sideline for the Prior Lake touchdown.
“Any time you can get a spark like that it can change the momentum instantly,” Gegenheimer said. “That play gave us a little bit of juice.”
Running back Preston Jelen then connected on a pass to wide receiver Tanner Wermerskirchen in the end zone for the two-point conversion, making the score 20-8 Skippers with 9:15 left in the third quarter.
The Laker defense stood tall on the next possession and forced a three-and-out, giving Prior Lake good field position at the Skipper 38-yard line after a short punt.
However, the Laker offense could not move the ball forward after a run play for no gain and three incompletions, giving the ball right back to Minnetonka.
Prior Lake’s defense came up strong again and forced another three-and-out.
The next drive looked promising after a 9-yard run by Johnson to start but Spencer Shaver fumbled on the very next play, ending the potential threat.
The defense made another stop and forced a negative one-yard punt, giving the Laker offense a chance from the Skipper 39-yard line.
The Lakers picked up a first down on three plays but ultimately turned the ball back over when the quarterback-center exchange could not be handled.
“Not holding onto the ball is our biggest issue right now and we have to do that to be successful,” Gegenheimer said.
After the defense held Minnetonka on the next possession, it looked like the Lakers were going to get the ball back but the punt bounced off the leg of one of the Laker players and Minnetonka jumped on it to retake possession.
The Skippers then had an 8-play 40-yard drive to start the fourth quarter, capped by a Livingston 1-yard touchdown run with 8:43 to go and essentially put the game out of reach.
Apart from his early fumble, Johnson led the Lakers statistically on offense, rushing for 60 yards on 10 carries while Jelen had 30 yards on nine carries.
Schipper finished 5 for 13 for 50 yards through the air while Wermerskirchen was the leading receiver with two catches for 38 yards.
Shaver led the Laker defense in tackles with 15 while linebacker Zach Wick had 14 and lineman Zach Whaley had 10.
The loss marked the first three-game losing streak for the Lakers since the 2010 season.
It should be noted that the three Laker losses are to then fifth-ranked Maple Grove, top-ranked Eden Prairie and second-ranked Minnetonka.
“The competition level has been pretty tough over the last three weeks and with our high standards for the program it has been mentally challenging,” Gegenheimer said. “We’re still trying to find the last pieces to the puzzle but you hope playing such a high level of competition is going to make you a much better playoff team, which is ultimately where we need to be playing our best football.”
The next opponent: Burnsville (and the history of the Battle of Savage)
In Week 5, the Lakers will renew an old rivalry with the Blaze on the road at Burnsville High School Sept. 29.
The teams last met in 2013 at Burnsville High School, a 42-12 Laker win.
The Blaze and the Lakers have played for the Dan Patch Trophy, named in honor of the great race horse owned by Marion W. Savage, since 2010 when both teams joined the South Suburban Conference.
The rivalry is nicknamed the “Battle of Savage” largely because school district lines split students living in the city of Savage between the Prior Lake and Burnsville school districts.
The two teams have 21 meetings all-time dating back to 1960, with both teams winning 10 games to go along with one tie.
The Lakers have not lost to the Blaze since the Dan Patch Trophy was created, going 4-0 from 2010 to 2013.
This year’s Burnsville team has a new head coach in Vince Varpness, who was promoted from offensive coordinator in the offseason after Tyler Krebs left and took the same position at Lakeville South.
The Blaze (1-3) dropped their season opener to Lakeville North 62-0 before rebounding to defeat Eastview 12-7 in Week 2.
Burnsville has lost their last two games, 9-6 to Lakeville South and 44-16 to Maple Grove.
The Blaze are led offensively by running back Tre Thomas, who is currently fourth in the Metro South District in rushing with 251 yards on 61 carries.
“Burnsville always has some good athletes,” Gegenheimer said. “Anytime you play a team that has great athletes, you always have to make sure you’re playing your best football in order to win.”
Kickoff against Burnsville on Friday is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Burnsville High School.
If you can’t make it to the game, you can watch the online video stream with Ben Tressel and John Wahlstrom.
Follow @plhsfootball, @pl4lstreaming and @pllakers on Twitter for updates.
Be sure to check back next week for a recap of the Battle of Savage as well as a preview of the Week 6 matchup against Eagan.
Taylor Smith can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @taysmith2013.