What an atmosphere was last Friday night. The fact Maple Grove filled our side of US Bank and saw two top tier programs go at it provided entertainment of the highest quality for everyone involved. Those boys on that field poured every ounce of who they were for 48 minutes and we unfortunately came up a little short in our effort to bring home the first state championship in school history by a narrow 13 - 7 margin against an opponent who had a two year winning streak.
Defensively, our kids played their hearts out against a team that scored at will against most of their opponents. It took physicality, discipline and constant effort and this group gave that play in and play out. It was awesome to see. We were practically about 4 plays away from doing all of our responsibilities across the board, but as good teams do, Lakeville South took advantage of those few opportunities with two big runs. It truly was a team effort as Jacob Anderson, Michael Ross, Sawyer Skanson, Kiers Brevik, Jaziah Atkinson, Micha Vayee, Cade Cook, Jace Uzzell, Jackson Powers, Mascon South and Bryce Tiber all had over 5 tackles a piece. Alan Jou at 185 pounds took up blockers all night as a defensive lineman and made 3 huge tackles including a series stopper on a screen pass. It was an honor to watch 11 people working together and giving it all play in and play out against a high scoring opponent. A ton of credit goes out to each one of them and Adam Spurrell and his defensive staff who did a great job all year leading this team!
Offensively, this will be a "what if" game for a long time. We played hard and with great effort against one of the top 3 defenses in 6A, and had numerous plays where we missed the pass by six inches or were one block away. Give Lakeville South Credit. They did a great job tackling and covering all night and made us earn it. We left plays out there, but it was not because of lack of effort or belief, they just made us be really good. Jacob Kilzer battled all night at quarterback trying to keep drives alive, Derrick Jameson ran hard and got us extra yards, Jacob Anderson made an impact on both sides of the ball, our offensive line that played 9 different people throughout the year did a great job protecting the passer, and Tanner Albeck made a great touchdown reception that gave us a 2nd half lead. This group is the highest scoring offense in Maple Grove History, so I cannot be prouder of the effort they gave week in and week out. They were fun to watch for 13 games!
However, the outcome was not what we wanted, what this group of young men brought to our community and school cannot be adequately described. In a time of uncertainty, this group provided a product every Friday night that people wanted to see, and they did it in a way that made everyone watching feel proud to be Crimson. They faced adversity, tragedy, sadness, adulation, and pressure, and every second you knew they were a group that believed and loved in one another. It was special and an honor to be a part of 2021's season. This group will be a brotherhood for as long as they are breathing. They will be forever linked as the group that made Maple Grove believe that we were worthy to be champions. There was so much sadness Friday night by our players, fans, students, parents, and community after the final 45 seconds ticked down because they made everyone believe they could do it, and every person walked out of that arena knowing that was a group worthy to be a Champion. However, I will say this. Every person involved with this program; parents, boosters, community, sponsors, administrators, student body, party zone, coaches, and most importantly the players represented what being a Champion is about every step along the way of this journey. It will carry with them forever and they now have a standard for themselves and all of Maple Grove that will provide a framework of how we can be Champions in ALL we do! It takes love, commitment, sacrifice, belief, selflessness, and action and this group showed this every day since January preparing for what became the best year in Maple Grove History.
I will miss this group of Seniors immensely. They had some studs, but they had a ton of people that worked their tails off into becoming a group that led a team onto the biggest stage that our sport has to offer. They didn't just show up, they earned it with every rep in the weight room, film study on their own, toughness throughout, and realizing greatness many times comes through difficulty! They embraced all of it! They are a group of young men that are winners and will be definite leaders throughout the rest of their lives. They set a standard for all of us to follow and hopefully those that saw them day in and day out understood what got them there.
To our parents, boosters and community, I sincerely thank you for all you have done for this program. From the scoreboard to our game day atmosphere, there is nothing that compares to a Friday night at the Grove. It truly is awesome! Thank you for caring and pouring every ounce of your heart, time, and your boys into this program allowing them to sacrifice at levels that hopefully makes it worthwhile! Without your support in every way possible, this is not possible. I cannot thank you enough!
To my coaches on our Staff, what a group you are. These boys love you. The personality and love you show day in and day out for them makes every day on the field something memorable for them as they walk off. We have a special group that love these young men and are there for them during all their highs and all their lows! This group truly cares!
Lastly, to our school and community. Thank you for the support you gave us day in and day out and the buzz that was throughout our school all year. They bought in and it made our kids feel great! How many people packed US Bank was truly remarkable and one of the best showings I have ever seen at a Prep Bowl. There was Crimson Pride everywhere in that arena! It was awesome and humbling.
On a personal note, this team will forever be deep in my heart. They were there for me in a time of significant loss and they were a major reason I made it through this time of my life. The joy they brought to me day in and day out reminded me of why I love coaching and the wins were honestly icing on the cake. There has never been a group that I have wanted this Championship more for than this group because they were there for me when my heart needed mending. They are a special group that I will love for the rest of my life. 2021 will be a team that will remain in the pantheon of Crimson history because they brought us something that was beyond win and losses. They shaped so many in a way that it will be years before they realize the impact they had on a community. This group is Champions. They are Difference Makers, and they truly are Crimson! Take note all that follow, the template has been set. Now it's time to carry what this group provided all of us forward! I cannot be prouder as a coach! GO CRIMSON!