Playoff football always comes down to Defense, Turnovers, Running the Ball, and coming up big on those pivotal plays and Edina went four for four in these areas which led to a hard fought 35-24 loss to conclude our season.
Offensively, we struggled to get into a rhythm early and missed a few critical short yardage situations which led to always fighting uphill all night. I loved the effort though of these kids and they fought to the end constantly giving us a chance to stay in it in the 2nd half. Kaden Harney concluded a great Sophomore season with 144 yards throwing, and accounting for 3 touchdowns on the night. Dylan Vokal was asked to do a great deal these last few weeks and he performed great with 98 yards rushing and 48 yards receiving while Bo Draheim added 81 yards receiving and a touchdown on the evening. This group was very young and grew immensely throughout the year as nine of our starters will be returning for next year. However, Rylan Bahl, Mason Brean and Henry Stang will be missed greatly on this side of the ball and will be a challenge to replace. They were a major part of this group and provided much of the spirit that propelled us daily. They still ended up the highest scoring offense in Crimson History if your look at points per game average, so there is a ton to build off of leading into the future.
Defensively, it was a tough night for us, not because of lack of effort but more execution as we gave up over 400 yards of offense on the night. We achieved 9 situations of 3rd and over 8 yards or 4th and more than 5 yards in the game and Edina converted on all of those nine situations. That usually is tough to recover from in the framework of the game. This is an area we will continue to improve as a program and needs to be the foundation for what Crimson football is built, but I was proud of the effort they gave because they fought all night. Dylan Vokal continued making an impact as he had 13 total tackles from the Safety position and Bo Draheim and Jacob Wrbankek combined for 17 total tackles and 4 tackles for loss from the Linebacker position. Again, we will miss a group of Seniors in Ayden Gunville, Cedric Buchholz and Henry Stang that did great things for us all year and played at all-district type levels, but there will be eight players returning in this group that will continue to only grow and get better during the offseason.
In Special Teams Henry Sievers did a great job all night as he made all 3 of his extra points and a 27 yards field goal, and kicked a perfect onside kick which we had a chance to recover late in the game. It was great to see him have a great game to end his Junior season and should give him great confidence going into next year.
It's sad this season came to an end so abruptly because this was a group that truly was a joy to be around day in and day out. They truly put their hearts and souls into this and truly started from scratch going into this year. I was proud of how they grew together over these 13 weeks, and I can't thank a Senior class enough, though small in numbers, for all they did for us as a program. They embraced a very young team that came in and kept Maple Grove football playing at a level that many did not think we could accomplish this year after losing so many kids from last year's squad. Their spirit, humor, and joy was infectious for our team and they embraced the role of being Seniors. We will miss them and I truly hope they carry something learned during their time here as a Crimson Football players throughout their lifetime. In their 2 years as Varsity football players, they had a 20-3 record with a State Championship. That is pretty awesome. To those coming back next year, let this fuel you. Exiting early in November should sting and we will need to reflect on why this occurred and get better from it. You grew immensely this year and if you put your hearts and souls into the next 12 months, you have a chance to do some special things moving forward and I can't wait to witness how you approach this. To everybody that is such a major part of Crimson Football; The players, the coaches, the parents, the community, the booster club, the school, and the youth football community, I cannot thank you enough and I am proud to be able to be your coach. Maple Grove football is a special thing and even though we just went through a little bump in the road, we will only get better from this and keep making it a product that all can be proud of. It's never easy to end this journey, but I am always grateful for those moments we got to be on it. There is nothing like it, and these were a wonderful bunch of young men that will do great things for many people. I truly am proud to be Crimson! It was a great 2023 season and I cannot be prouder of a group of players that poured their hearts out there week in and week out. It's all you can ask for from a group and they provided it day in and day out! GO CRIMSON!