Armstrong turns over Hopkins six times in 37-11 final in Royals home opener
Coming off an intense 21-14 road win, Hopkins entered last Thursday’s home opener with a ton of confidence against Robbinsdale Armstrong (2-0), another winner from the opening week.
Armstrong, ranked eighth in the latest Class 5A state poll, spoiled the festivities capitalizing on six Hopkins (1-1) turnovers in a 37-11 win.
“It was pretty simple errors and unfortunately we’re still making a lot of mental errors,” Hopkins coach John DenHartog said. “Last week against Apple Valley our defense was able to really shut them down but tonight we played against a really good quarterback and offensive line.”
The Falcons, a veteran group with 14 starters back from 2018 including senior quarterback Jake Breitbach passed for 220 yards and four touchdowns. He was an efficient 17-of-25, averaging nearly 13 yards per completion.
Fellow senior receiver Thai Bowman caught seven passes for 172 yards and two scores. He blew through the Royals’ secondary for a 42-yard touchdown just before halftime to give the visitors a 27-3 lead.
Armstrong built a 20-0 lead in the first quarter by alertly recovering three fumbles including one on the opening drive at midfield.
Breitbach found Bowman open on a misdirection pass in the left side of the end zone from 4-yards out. To set up the touchdown, Breitbach found senior Jordan Lewis with a 27-yard pass on fourth down. Lewis reached for the pylon but was ruled out of bounds at the 2.
Falcons junior running back Caleb Jones was another workhorse, piling up 100 yards on the ground on 22 carries including a 5-yard touchdown run to make it 13-0. He ran a misdirection off the left side of the offensive line and into the end zone.
“When we were able to get the snap, we were effective,” DenHartog said about the positives in the loss, which came seven days after the 21-14 win at Apple Valley in the opener.
With one fewer day of practice because of Labor Day, the Royals coach thought the preparation was good enough to improve to 2-0.
“They showed up and came into practice, worked hard over Labor Day weekend and if the kids continue to do that we’ll be fine,” DenHartog said.
Looking to get something going offensively, Hopkins senior quarterback Noah Kim completed a 6-yard pass to senior receiver James Overdahl across the middle. The ball was stripped from Overdahl and recovered by Rashad Sherwood on the Royals’ 34-yard line.
With another short field to work with Jones broke off a 22-yard run to get inside the red zone. Eventually scoring on a 4-yard carry to make it 20-0 with over four minutes to play in the quarter.
Hopkins got on the scoreboard with a 30-yard field goal from junior Cole Breyer with under five minutes on the clock before halftime.
The drive began near midfield for the Royals as Noah Kim completed two big passes to senior Brayone Murff including a 24-yard pickup before Armstrong called a time out to regroup. Overdahl also hauled in a key pass but a miscue on the snap from inside the 10 backed up the Royals to the 26-yard line to make it 3-and-25 to go. Another tough snap led to Kim dumping a pass off to Rohee Konde who juked his way free from what appeared to be a minimal gain into a 14-yard pickup. After making the catch on the left side, he reversed course darting to the right only to be bottled up again. He turned around and sprinted past the defense along the left sideline to reach the 12-yard line to set up the field goal attempt.
Breitbach responded with a 42-yard touchdown strike to Bowman less than a minute later to make it 27-3.
After holding Armstrong to 3-and-out to begin the second half, Hopkins offense put together a touchdown drive starting at the 50-yard line.
Senior Demetrius Patton kept his legs churning through would-be tacklers on a 16-yard touchdown run. RJ Chakolis ran the ball in for a 2-point conversion to make it 27-11 with 8:16 left in the third quarter.
“I made the right cut, followed my teammates and tried to pull it out for us but we couldn’t get it today,” Patton said about the scoring play. “We’re going to learn from this and practice more for next week.”
The two defensive staples each took a turn to dish out some punishment with the ball.
“[Patton]’s an extraordinary defensive player and little-known on offense because he plays all the time on offense,” DenHartog said. “Once he gets going north and south, he’s hard to take down.”
DenHartog talked about the maturity of the core group to lead by example in terms of off-season work through the first two weeks of the season. Part of that is how they conducted themselves from the start of Thursday’s game, never hanging their heads and continuing to play through the final whistle despite what the scoreboard said.
“We have some tremendous character guys,” DenHartog said about the veterans with experience on the varsity team, including Patton and Chakolis. “They’re good kids, they’re going to work hard are good teammates and all of the things you ask for as a coach.”
Patton said the team has a lot of pride and with that comes high-character to do the right things.
“We know we can do better, just got to work on it more to be more consistent,” Patton said.
Chakolis said: “We’ve got a lot of seniors on the team, I’m a junior, and so I’ve been playing with them since the eighth grade and I love them and we aren’t ready to be done with them. We all want to stay on the field and have fun.”
Chakolis had a couple of personal connections on the Falcons, in particular with linebacker Dacion Francois, whom the Royals captain played football with from kindergarten through fifth grade. He also played in a 7-on-7 league with Bowman.
Facing a potent attack as Armstrong has, Chakolis was impressed, especially with the linemen, including 6-foot-6, 315-pound senior Noah Pappas.
“We had some words after the game, he’s a good player,” Chakolis said about Pappas. “I felt like we messed up on a lot of keys and in the crunch moments we have to shine and we didn’t shine.”
Hopkins will try for win number two at Forest Lake on Friday, Sept. 13. Tartan won the season opener at home against the Rangers on Aug. 29, 24-15.