The sights, sounds, and yes…those Friday night lights are back in Minnesota.
With stadiums welcoming all fans, the high school football season kicked off for the Orono Spartans this past Friday.
With a philosophy of “One Team, One Dream, Rise as One” The Spartans, under head coach Joe McPherson, are looking to build on last year’s solid finish when the Spartans advanced to the section championship game.
With a roster that has just a dozen seniors, Coach McPherson talked about his team, “We have a great senior class and although we only have 12 seniors, they have shown a lot of leadership already this season in guiding all the young players on the field. Our young team battled and showed a lot of character throughout the night. We will only get better as the season goes on with our younger players getting more experienced each week.”
In the Cooper Hawks, the Spartans played a team that received a lot of preseason accolades and with a handful of players getting strong D1 interest, had a roster loaded with talent.
Orono used a balanced attack all night and the defense made big plays when they needed it. The no quit Spartans would tie the game early in the third quarter before an unfortunate penalty and punting miscue shifted the momentum to the Hawks.
Following the game, Coach McPherson focused on the good things he saw.
“Our players played a great game against a very good Cooper team,” he said. “It was an exciting atmosphere and our boys responded by playing tough and never giving up.”
Orono opened the scoring on its second possession of the game when junior quarterback Charlie Kraus hit sophomore running back Victor Ruhland on an 8-yard scoring strike. Senior kicker Jack Kalman added the extra point that put the Spartans on top 7-0 late in the first quarter.
The 2nd quarter belonged to the Hawks and they put up two unanswered touchdowns to take a 14-7 lead.
Kraus threw his second touchdown pass of the night when he found junior running back Nash Tichy from 11 yards out to tie the game at 14-14. Kraus, in his first varsity start, completed 12 of 23 passes for 183 yards and 3 passing touchdowns and 1 rushing.
Cooper was able to get one more touchdown before the half to take a 21-14 lead into the locker room.
Orono’s defense got the stop it needed to start the third quarter and it came on big play. With the Hawks offense marching downfield, senior safety Eli McKown, intercepted a pass that turned the momentum in the Spartans favor.
Orono used that energy and put together a nice drive that tied the game on a 23-yard run by Kraus.
Cooper would get the next two scores and build a 36-21 lead.
Orono refused to quit and stuck with it’s game plan of running the football. Senior back Aiden Mueller bulled and banged his way to 64 yards on 21 carries.
With the Hawks putting nine in the box to stop the run, Orono made a great play call and Kraus hit sophomore wide receiver Hunter Fox on a short slant that got behind the defense.
Fox raced 57 yards untouched for the score and closed the gap to 36-27.
The Hawks would get the next two scores and make it a 43-27 final.
Coach McPherson reflected on a great high school football game, “I’m excited about playing great teams throughout the season because it will prepare us for the postseason. Each week we will have to be at our best to win on Friday night.”
The Orono home opener will be this Friday, Sept. 10 against rival Holy Angels.
The Stars are coming off a 27-21 win over Hill Murray.
“Our game this week against Holy Angels is a rematch from the Section Championship last year. We are excited to see where we sit against one of the best teams in 4A.” McPherson said looking ahead to Friday night.