October 7, 2022 at 12:35 p.m.
Everything was perfect when last Friday’s homecoming game started against the St. Francs Fighting Saints at Chisago Lakes High School. The weather was beautiful – a little cool, dry, not much wind. Over 2,000 fans showed up to dine from the food trucks outside the gates and cheer on the Wildcats.
The Wildcats took the opening kickoff, marched down the field, took seven minutes off the clock and scored on an fourth down, 18-yard pass from new starting quarterback Gavin Lewis to running back Blake Schmidt to take a 7-0 lead.
But that was the high point of the evening for the Wildcats. St. Francis ran for 50 yards on its opening play, with 15 yards added for a face-mask penalty on the Wildcats. Three plays later, the Saints scored on a two-yard by Aydan Carlson run to tie the game at 7-7. After the Wildcats went three and out, the punt gave St. Francis the ball on their own 44-yard line. On the first play of the drive, Grady Brunn ran 56 yards for a touchdown to make it 14-7. The Fighting Saints continued to stifle the Wildcat offense after that and scored 17 more points in the second quarter to take a commanding 31-7 lead into halftime, and even added insult to injury by successfully recovering an onside kick during their scoring frenzy. The Fighting Saints took the opening kickoff of the second half and began to once again march down the field. The Wildcats picked off a pass at their own 25-yard line and returned it 65 yards, giving the crowd something to cheer about. But the interception was nullified by a pass interference penalty.
St. Francis scored twice in the second half to build their lead to 44-7 before Jacob Showers scored on a 26-yard run to make the final score St. Francis 44, Chisago Lakes 14.
“That was the best St. Francis team I’ve seen,” said Wildcat head coach Bill Weiss. “Typically, they are a heavy run team that wears you down four or five yards at a time. This year’s team can strike with a big pass play or hit a seam for a long run. We needed to do two things in order to be successful tonight. We needed to stop them, and we needed to have more drives like our opening drive. We ate up over half the first quarter on the opening drive and had a great fourth down conversion. But we struggled with consistency after that. St. Francis is a very physical, well-coached team and we have to give credit to them.”
The only significant injury for the Wildcats was to Max Olson. Weiss said “Max plays on both sides of the ball for us, halfback on offense and free safety on defense. He is projected to be out four weeks. He is a tough guy to replace.”
For the second year in a row, the Wildcats (1-4) will play the Cambridge-Isanti Bluejackets (1-4) for the Dala Horse traveling trophy. The Wildcats took home the inaugural trophy last year with a 24-21 win at home. “Both communities have a Swedish tradition,” said Weiss, “so this was kind of a cool idea we had. It gives us one more thing to drive for.”
This game looks like a close matchup. Each team has just one win on the season, and the last two games between them were one score games that came down to the last minute. Weiss said ”we have had some great games with them. They are pretty big up front. They have played a very tough schedule, like we have. We are looking forward to this rivalry game.”