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Recent Maple Grove Crimson Varsity News

Crimson Season Ends With Playoff Loss to Edina

By Coach Lombardi 11/04/2023, 6:45am CDT

Big Plays Make The Difference in Playoff Tilt

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!


Crimson Prevail in Opening Round of Playoffs Over Park

By Coach Lombardi 10/29/2023, 2:15pm CDT

36 point First Half Propels the Crimson

Playoff football.  Hard to believe we are here already, but the Crimson took the field Friday night at 'The Grove' under blustery conditions and beat a hard nosed Park of Cottage Grove team 53-21.  There is always a unique excitement in the locker room around entering the playoffs, and we handled the highs and lows during the game well and found a way to take control of the game in the 2nd quarter.

Defensively, we faced adversity early as we turned the ball over on. the first possession and did not execute in the kicking game on two consecutive kicks that put our defense on short fields throughout the first half.   They responded well and did not allow Park to get any momentum allowing the rest of team time to recover from our mistakes.  That's what a good defense does.   Senior Henry Stang continued his great Senior Season with 8 total tackles, and sophomore Beaux Thyen added seven tackles and a fumble recovery.  Next week, this side of the ball will face a great challenge as they face an opponent that can both run and throw the ball, so it will be a fun week to keep getting better!

Offensively, we faced our first full week without tailback Chuck Langama, so many people had to take part.  Our offensive line did a great job of driving the line of scrimmage forward and giving the backs an opportunity to flourish.  Sophomore Ryder Skanson did a great job from the fullback position running for 103 yards on 13 carries with two touchdowns, while junior Dylan Vokal added 120 yards on 9 carries with a touchdown of his own.  Sophomore Kaden Harney did a great job running the team completing 67% of his passes, throwing a touchdown to junior Nathan Hromadka,  while rushing for two more touchdowns on the evening himself.   This group will continue to get better and I look forward to their development heading into the Edina game.

Our Special Teams continued to make big plays.  Junior Jack Weigel blocked a punt for the 2nd consecutive game which led to Senior Cedric Buchholz landing a touchdown on the fumble recovery.  However, the big moment happened in the fourth quarter as Senior Ella Walz made a field goal scoring the first Varsity points ever scored in a football game by a female Crimson.  She started from scratch this year and wanted to come out and be a part of the team and she has worked extremely hard, so it was great to see her hit her field goal with great height, distance and confidence when called upon.  It was an awesome moment!

Next week we get the privilege to take our home field for the final time for the season and there is no better place to play for our boys.  They have earned the right to get a home game against a very good Edina team who is coming into the game with a five game winning streak and one that will be a lot of fun to play against because they play well on each side of the ball.   It will take a great week of preparation on our part but we will be ready and our Senior Class will get a chance to finish their last game on their home field the way they want it to be finished.   It's an awesome opportunity to get step 2 and to get the chance to head into the State tournament.  Let's go!!!! Nothing like it!   Let's get after the Hornets and make it a special Friday night!


Crimson Finish the Regular Season With a Win Over the Skippers

By Coach Lombardi 10/21/2023, 7:45pm CDT

Early Adversity Faces Crimson as They Prevail Over Top-Ranked Opponent

Adversity, one of the best ways to see just how strong the fiber of a team has been built and the Crimson faced plenty going into their final regular season battle.  Following a tough one point loss,  just 20 minutes before game time a pregame injury occurred that changed the entire game plan and framework of the team going in.   What resulted was an imperfect but beautiful performance as a group came together and found a way to prevail 27-13 over Minnetonka on a beautiful Thursday afternoon.   This win allowed the Crimson to finish a very strong 6 - 2 regular season record and it was enjoyable to watch such a young team grow immensely as the year progressed. 

Offensively, adversity faced us immediately as Chuck Langama got hurt during pregame, so immediately 1450 yards rushing and 26 TDs were taken from the game plan, so it was amazing to see a group of kids come together and find a way.   Senior Henry Stang played an unbelievable game in numerous positions as he rushed for 47 hard yards and had 109 yards receiving and two touchdowns flourishing in a role that he truly has rarely practiced throughout the year.   Junior Dylan Vokal also was a 'do-everything player' out there as he rushed for 41 yards, threw for 100 yards and two touchdowns and also added 22 yards receiving.   Sophomores Kaden Harney and Ryder Skanson did some great things as Harney threw for 132 yards and a touchdown and Skanson reached the end zone and rushed for 36 yards.   Also, Junior Bo Draheim had over 60 yards of receiving and a touchdown and our offensive line performed very well against a very good, physical, athletic front four.   Obviously this team will continue to keep growing as their new roles will be discovered but I am proud of the way they came together when the focal point of our offense suddenly went down unexpectedly.

Defensively, we found a way to keep us in it while our offense figured it out holding the Skippers to 13 points and having many critical stops that gave our team a chance to recover.   Henry Stang continued his unreal game over on this side of the ball with 14 total tackles and a fumble recovery.   Senior Cedric Buchholz had a strong statistical game with 13 total tackles, and Ayden Gunville made a huge impact at nose guard with 10 total tackles and a sack.   Sophomores Brayden Dozier and Beaux Thyen added interceptions and Juniors Dylan Vokal, Jacob Wrbanek and Bo Draheim each had over seven tackles a piece on the day.    This group will have to step up and become leaders in this playoff run because this is the time defense gets to shine.  Playoffs come down to defense and our offensive line and I am proud to see what each of these groups achieve during each step in the playoffs.

Last week I was hard on our special teams and I thought they responded beautifully this last week.  Our punt team made a huge impact as we put Kaden Harney in as a punter and he averaged over 38 yards a punt for his four punts during the game.  It was huge in dictating field position and this will become an asset for our team in weeks to come.  Jack Weigel blocked an extra point and a punt that accounted for 8 points during the game.  Now it's time to sharpen up our extra point team and kickoff teams and special teams will become something we take great pride in! 

Now we are to the greatest time of the year.   Next Friday night at the Grove we will play step 1 against Park of Cottage Grove and we expect to bring the best of Crimson football out that night.   It's the time of year where the little things matter and the preparation for each game become more and more detailed as we are coming together to try and do something special all the way from the two way starter to the scout team kids that give us such good looks.   It's a time where we have been blessed to have more home games and get the best atmosphere in the state to be seen again.   As the selection show was taking place on Friday and the brackets were being revealed, I thought about how blessed we are to get to this day in and day out with each other throughout this team, staff and community.  It truly is special.  Now it's our job to put on that field the best we be possibly can be and enjoy every series of downs we get to play.  It truly is an opportunity like no other!  Now our time is truly now!   Let's go!!!  There is nothing like Playoff Football.  Let's get it rockin'!