The Spartans got their first win of the 2019 season utilizing a fast offensive start with two first quarter scores and then relied on their shutdown defense to seal a 14-7 road victory. Head Coach Joe McPherson was confident in his team.
“The boys had a great week of practice and I felt good going into the game. The players did a great job preparing for a tough Waconia team,” he said.
Orono took the opening kickoff and the offense went to work at its own 39 yard line. A very balanced 10 play drive put Orono in the lead for good. Danny Striggow scored from 36 yards out on a beautifully executed screen pass from Teddy Deters. On the ensuing possession for Waconia, Orono safety Noah Arneson intercepted the Wildcats at their own 40 yard line. The Orono offense sensed opportunity knocking and it took just four plays with running back Nick Ruhland scoring from 11 yards out to put the Spartans up 14-0. An interception in the second quarter by Ruhland stopped a Waconia drive and the Spartans took a 14-0 lead into the half.
With Orono’s defense stopping everything, Waconia could bring in the second half. It appeared that the Spartans had broken the game open late in the third quarter on a 90 yard punt return by Noah Arneson only to see that play negated due to an illegal blocking call. The Orono defense held Waconia scoreless until late into the fourth quarter when a roughing the passer call on fourth down gave the Wildcats first and goal from the third yard line. The Wildcats scored on third and goal to make the score 14-7 with just over five minutes remaining.
Orono would threaten with a drive into the red zone late it in the fourth quarter and while unable to convert on fourth and goal, pinned the Wildcats deep. Waconia was unable to mount a drive against and Orono defense that wanted the win. After the game, Coach McPherson talked about his team.
“Tonight, was a great game and our players competed the entire game. I was proud of how they finished the 2nd half strong. We are starting to get healthy again and it showed tonight. We had some great performances from guys on both sides of the ball. Our goal coming into the game was to win the turnover battle and hold our penalties to a minimum – we did that tonight,” he said.
The Orono defense played its strongest game of the year giving up just 104 total yards. Defensive tackle Shea Albrecht had a huge night for the Spartans with five tackles, five assists, two tackles for loss and a sack. The Orono linebacking corps led by John McCuskey (four tackles, four assists) and Joey Tilzer (six tackles and one tackle for a loss) continued their solid play. Offensively, Teddy Deters was an efficient three of five for 62 yards and a touchdown. On the ground Nick Ruhland had 14 carries for 56 yards and a touchdown. Noah Arneson had two catches for 36 yards.
The 1-3 Spartans return home Friday night to face the 1-3 St. Louis Park Orioles. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. With Orono continuing to get healthy from the rash of injuries earlier in the year, the Spartans look to build on the win at Waconia. A happy Coach McPherson summed up his team’s mood.
“We have a very tough schedule, so we are going to enjoy a big win against a great team tonight,” he said.