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High-powered offense, ferocious defense lead Lakers past Shakopee as familiar foe awaits

By Taylor Smith, 09/06/18, 11:15AM CDT


The Lakers' new offense looked sharp and the defense looked strong against Shakopee as matchup with Maple Grove looms.

Game Recap: Shakopee

Prior Lake quarterback Colin O’Connor ran for two touchdowns and threw for two more as fifth-ranked Lakers defeated the Shakopee Sabers 41-8 August 30 on the road at Shakopee West Junior High School.

O’Connor’s first touchdown came on a run from 17 yards out where he faked a handoff to Shaver and exploded through an open hole in the middle of the defense to give the Lakers a lead they would not relinquish.

Though they rallied for the victory, the season started on an odd note for the Lakers when the ball bounced off of returner Nick Theis on the opening kickoff and went out of bounds at the 2-yard line. Running back/linebacker Spencer Shaver got tackled in his own end zone on the next play for a safety, giving Shakopee the early lead 2-0.  

After the teams traded defensive stops on the next few possessions, punt returner Dylan Bair set the Prior Lake offense with great field position with a near 60-yard return.  O’Connor scored his first rushing touchdown on the next play. The two-point conversion attempt was no good, leaving the score a 6-2 Lakers with 5:59 to go in the first quarter.

The Shakopee offense had perhaps their best chance of the game on the very next possession, driving all the way down to the Prior Lake 7-yard line but the Laker defense, led by defensive coordinator Tom Menke, came up with a huge stop. After a pair of penalties, the Sabers faced a fourth-and-goal from the 20-yard line. Shakopee quarterback Daniel Kulus dropped back and fired toward the end zone but Laker safety Austin Gordon jumped in front of the pass, intercepted the ball and returned it to around the Prior Lake 30-yard line.

Neither team could seem to get much of a drive together until just past midway through the second quarter when the Laker offense struck again.

Facing a fourth-and-1 on the Saber 33-yard line, O’Connor took the snap and ran around the left end behind Shaver, who threw a great block on the Shakopee defender, allowing his quarterback to run untouched into the end zone. Kicker/wide receiver Parker Ellis added the extra point to make the score 13-2 with 4:54 to go before halftime.

After a three-and-out by the Prior Lake defense and a short punt, the Laker offense took over near midfield in the closing moments of the half, they then marched down inside the 5-yard line.

With around ten seconds on the clock, facing a third-and-goal from the 2-yard line and no timeouts, O’Connor tried to run it in from the left but was forced toward the pylon by the Shakopee defense and dove for the end zone and lost control of the football. Wide receiver Spencer Marlier recovered the ball in the end zone and the officials initially signaled touchdown however they ended up placing the ball on the 1-yard line after a discussion with five seconds left on the clock.

Shaver took the ball and barreled into the end zone on the next snap as time expired. The two-point conversion by Theis was good, making the score 21-2 Lakers at the half.

The Prior Lake defense got yet another three-and-out to start the third quarter and a short punt setup the Laker offense already in Shakopee territory.

Facing a fourth down-and-13 at the 29-yard line, O’Connor made one of the biggest plays of the game. He dropped back to pass and stepped up in the pocket. Not seeing any receivers open, he scrambled to his left and ran along the sideline, picking up the first down and continuing the drive.

Shaver ran into the end zone two plays later from five yards out to cap off the drive. O’Connor connected with wide receiver Nick Larson on the two-point conversion, increasing the lead to 29-2.

The Laker defense got another stop and setup the Prior Lake offense already in Shakopee territory. The Lakers used the run game to get down to the 5-yard line and O’Connor finished the drive through the air, finding Marlier on a bubble screen who took the ball into the end zone and effectively put the game away at 35-2 with 3:01 left in the third quarter.

O’Connor connected with Ellis for the final Prior Lake touchdown of the game in the fourth quarter. Ellis made a great catch, dragging his feet while diving out the side of the end zone.

Shakopee also scored on a long run in the fourth quarter, getting us to the 41-8 final score.

Statistically, O’Connor finished with 11 carries for 100 yards on the ground with two rushing touchdowns and completed 11 of 23 passes for 69 yards, two passing touchdowns and one interception.

Shaver and fellow running back Keaton Schroeder each finished with 35 yards rushing while Shaver had the two touchdowns.

Marlier led the Lakers in receiving with four catches for 32 yards and a touchdown.

Defensively, Gordon led the team in tackles with eight, while linebacker Noah Benson had seven and linebacker DJ Doyen and Shaver each had five.

A new look on offense

If you watched the Prior Lake game against Shakopee, you likely noticed that the offense is different than in past years thanks to the addition of new offensive coordinator Mark Esch to the coaching staff.

Esch comes to the Laker program after serving as the head coach at Mankato West High School from 2006 to 2016.

During his time at the helm in Mankato, Esch took the Scarlets to the state tournament nine times, winning state championships in 2008 and 2014.

Next up: Maple Grove

The fifth-ranked Lakers will have a tough test against a familiar opponent in Week 2 as they welcome the seventh-ranked Maple Grove Crimson to Dan Patch Stadium September 7 at 7pm.

The Lakers (1-0) and the Crimson (1-0) have played each other every year since their meeting in the 2014 state quarterfinals.

The Crimson have won every matchup since then, including Week 2 of last season 9-6 at Maple Grove.

This year’s Maple Grove team won their opening game of the season at Osseo 34-7.

They are led offensively by running back Evan Hull, who had 33 carries for 387 yards against Osseo in Week 1.


Kickoff against Maple Grove on Friday is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Dan Patch Stadium.

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 Maple Grove game and preview of the Week 3 matchup against Eden Prairie.

Taylor Smith can be reached at or on Twitter at @taysmith2013.