11/14/2019 5:10:00 PM Early surge from Suggs-led SMB holds up through late Chisago Lakes rally at state
In last Saturday’s state tournament game against St. Paul Academy/Minnehaha Academy/Blake (SMB), the Jalen Suggs Show dominated the first half and the Wildcats trailed 35-0 at the end of the half – a seemingly insurmountable lead. But rather than hanging their heads, the Wildcats came out blazing and dominated the second half. In the end, their rally fell short and SMB came away with a 49-28 win to advance to a state semifinal game against top-ranked Hutchinson today at 4:30 p.m. at U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis. The loss ended the season for the Wildcats. The game was played at Centennial High School in Circle Pines.
Wildcat head coach Bill Weiss was proud of the effort his team gave after falling in such a deep hole in the first half. He said “Things didn’t go well in any sense in the first half, on offense, defense or on special teams. But give our guys credit. We regrouped at halftime and said, ‘with 24 minutes left how do we want to play’? So, we forgot about the scoreboard and went out and played with great effort, right till the end of the game.”
In the first half, SMB quarterback Suggs led his team down the field multiple times with little resistance from the Wildcat defense. Suggs threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more. The Wildcat student section had quite a number of signs referring to the need to shut down Suggs (some a bit vulgar, which were quickly removed by Chisago Lakes High School administrators), and Suggs acknowledged those signs by blowing a kiss to the Wildcat student section as he scored his second rushing touchdown. And during the first half onslaught, assorted people on the Wildcat sideline (not players and coaches) speculated that there would be running time in the fourth quarter as SMB looked unstoppable at the time.
The Wildcats did show some life on offense early in the first half. Trailing 14-0 with just under four minutes to go in the first quarter, the Wildcats faced second and four at their own 16. Wasco took the snap, kept the ball and snaked his way up the middle. He burst into the open and ran down the left sideline until Suggs caught up with him at the SMB 36, a gain of 48 yards. The Wildcats got the ball all the way down to the 17 before they turned it over on downs. That was their best scoring opportunity of the first half. A 30-yard completion from Wasco to Nick Stone gave the Wildcats the ball at midfield midway through the second quarter, but the drive stalled there. A fumbled snap out of punt formation gave SMB the ball on the Wildcat 41. On second and 10, Suggs threw the ball up for grabs and Ryan Sanvik leaped and picked it off at the Wildcat 5. But the Wildcats returned the favor two plays later, with SMB picking it off at the Wildcat 40 with two minutes to go in the half and scoring five plays later to make it 35-0.
On the opening drive of the second half, the Wildcats faced second and 12 from their own 24-yard line. Wasco took the snap, rolled right and hit wide open tight end Zach Mueller in stride at the 50. Mueller kept running and was tackled from behind at the 18-yard line after a 58-yard gain. On the next play, Wasco pitched left to Cole Peterson, who ran up the left hashmark, broke a tackle at the ten and waltzed into the end zone to get the Wildcats on the scoreboard. Spencer Nelson hit the extra point and the Wildcats trailed 35-7. But SMB answered less than two minutes later with a 45-yard touchdown pass from Suggs to Trevon Howard, and the lead was back up to 35.
After a squib kick, the Wildcats started their next drive from their own 41. On the first play of the drive, Wasco hit Tommy Dubbs with a screen pass to the left and Dubbs turned it into a 37-yard gain down to the SMB 22. Four plays later, on first down from the 11, Wasco threw an interception in the end zone and SMB returned it to the 11. On third and ten from the 11, Suggs dropped back to just inside the end zone. A blitzing Hunter Kral shoved his blocker back to the goal line and took Suggs down for a safety. SMB had to kick off from their own 20 and the Wildcats once again had great field position at their own 46. On second and eight, Wildcat wide receiver Kyle Byrne took a reverse pitch to the left and ran untouched around left end for a 34-yard gain down to the SMB 18. Two plays later, on second and four from the 12, Wasco kept the ball, ran up the right hashmark, bounced off a would-be tackler at the ten yard line and skittered into the end zone to cut the SMB lead to 42-16 with just under four minutes left in the third quarter.
On their ensuing possession, SMB faced second and 15 from the Wildcat 35. Suggs dropped back to pass, but a blitzing Kral sacked him for a 15-yard loss all the way back to midfield. Suggs ran around left end on the next play. The ball was knocked loose as he neared the sideline and Connor Bleymeyer pounced on the fumble at the Wildcats 44, once again giving them great field position. An 11-yard pass to David Kimlinger and a 15-yard run by Wasco moved the ball down to the 30 on the last play of the third quarter. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Wasco was hit as he tried to hand off the ball. The ball popped loose and lineman Kaden Johnson scooped it up at the 35 and rumbled 65 yards for an SMB touchdown. The 14-point turnaround made the score 49—16 and squelched any realistic chance of a Wildcat comeback.
But the Wildcats kept plugging away They started their next drive on their own 26. On first and ten from the 50, Dresel took the handoff and burst through a hole up the middle for a 26-yard gain. Five plays later, Peterson hit a nice hole on the left side and went into the end zone standing up to make the score 48-23 with seven minutes left. On the ensuing SMB possession, the Wildcat defense forced SMB into a three and out. The SMB punter dropped a perfect snap and the Wildcats knocked him out of bounds at the 20. Five plays later, Kimlinger took it in from the one to make the score 48-29 with just under four minutes left in the game. But the Wildcats ran out of time, and their first appearance in the state tournament since 2001 ended with a loss in the opening round.
The Wildcats outgained SMB 456-417 for the game. Wasco ran the ball 16 times for 112 yards and a touchdown to lead the Wildcats. Peterson had 16 carries for 82 yards and two touchdowns. Wasco was four of eight passing for 136 yards, with two interceptions. For SMB, Suggs passed for 253 yards, three touchdowns and one interception, and rushed for 64 yards on eight carries.
Weiss said “A lot of guys stepped up in the second half and played better football. Ryan Sanvik had another interception. That’s his third interception in the last four games. Any time you get a takeaway on defense, those are big plays. And he has done that consistently. Owen Dresel is the heart and soul of our defense and he showed that right up to the end. Nick Wasco did a nice job at quarterback keeping his composure against an athletic, talented team.
“I am happy that Cole Peterson came back from his injury to finish the season. He showed that he was a real impact player, with four touchdowns in two games and a lot of other key contributions. It would have been nice to see his impact if he had been able to play the whole season. Hunter Kral was another guy who battled injuries off and on throughout the year. He did a lot of things nice for us defensively, including the safety Any time a defense scores, it’s huge. That safety gave us points and great field position after the kickoff from the 20. It helped us to continue our second half surge.
Weiss had a couple of final comments. He said “This game turned out to be a great football lesson and a great life lesson. You’ve just got to keep trying, to keep coming back. It wasn’t an easy situation. But our guys picked themselves up and played hard for the last 24 minutes. We were able to hold our heads high at the end of the game because we left it all out on the field.”
Football Notes SMB quarterback Suggs is an elite football quarterback and basketball point guard who has five offers to play football and six offers to play basketball at some of the top schools in the country. Several of those schools, including the University of Minnesota, have offered Suggs both football and basketball scholarships, although it is unclear if he will try to play both sports in college.