by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
You’d like to pick some cupcake in the middle of your schedule for the homecoming game, but that didn’t work out this year for Elk River.
Instead, their week-five, home-field opponent was Totino-Grace, which has most state championships, nine, of any school in the state, seven of those since 2003.
The Eagles, top-ranked in Class 5A, pummeled the Elks 35-0 on Friday night before a huge crowd, with stands on both sides filled.
The Elks took their first drubbing. Even though their record is 1-4, their first three losses were close games.
“We found out a whole another level that we’ve got to get to ourselves,” said Elk coach Steve Hamilton. “They (the Eagles) played hard, they played physical, they are big and strong, and they took it to us up front, on both sides of the ball.”
Totino-Grace led by just 6-0 until 34 seconds left in the first half when they capped a nice drive with Carleton Djam’s one-yard dive and led 14-0. They forced a punt (the Elks were calling time-outs) and almost scored again on the final play, if not for Elk safety Terry Hadden’s pass-breakup in the end zone.
The Eagles (5-0) came out flying in the third quarter. Charlie Miller hauled in a 32-yard touchdown pass from A.J. LaPanta, a highlight-reel kind of play as the receiver kept his eyes on the ball and snagged it after Hadden leapt to tap the ball away initially. A few minutes later Djam bulled 48 yards down the sideline and the rout was on at 28-0.
The Elks, who usually run for over 300 yards, were limited to 123 in 43 attempts by the brawny, lively Eagle defense. Denis Bardashevskiy, who rolled up 515 yards in the first four games, had 25 yards on nine totes.
“They (the Eagles) have had a lot of big games over there, and that is where we are going to get to,” said Hamilton. “But we still have big things in front of us yet this year. We were missing a few guys this week, and we get them back next week, and that will help, because we don’t have a ton of depth.”
The coach said “four or five” players were idled, and he had to move some pieces around.
Totino-Grace quarterback A.J. LaPanta, son of Fox North sports commentator Anthony LaPanta (a former Eagle himself, who’s on the coaching staff), hit nine of 16 passes for 103 yards and two TD’s, the other an eight-yarder to Lance Benick to open the scoring.
Mason Kaliszewski closed the scoring with a 27-yard run and totaled 108 yards on 18 carries.
Eagle coach Jeff Ferguson, asked what’s the reasons for his program’s sustained success, said, “We just get good kids every year, kids who come to practice on time, kids who listen and do what you ask.”
He insisted that T-G has few if any blue-chip scholarship players. “A lot of our guys wind up at St. John’s and St. Thomas. We did have a couple guys last year sign with South Dakota State.”
Totino-Grace entered an expanded Northwest Suburban Conference this year, leaving the North Suburban.
“I love it. This is more suited for us,” said Ferguson about the NWSC. “We’re playing bigger schools, good teams. I coached Blaine for 16 years, so I know a lot about the Northwest Suburban.”
About the Elks, whom they faced for the first time, he observed, “I have a lot of respect for their coach. He took over a tough situation here. I was following it. That offense of his, it’s so well-executed. I know they were missing a few guys tonight, so that didn’t help.”
The Elks, 0-2 in conference and 1-4 overall, will try get back on track next Friday at Robbinsdale Armsrong, which is 1-4 after edging Park Center (also 1-4) by 9-7 on Friday night.
Totino-Grace 35, Elk River 0
Totino-Grace …………. 6 8 14 7 — 35
Elk River ……………… 0 0 0 0 — 0
TG—Lance Benick 8 pass from AJ LaPanta (kick failed)
TG—Carlton Djam 1 run (Mason Kaliszewski pass from Benick)
TG—Charlie Miller 32 pass from LaPanta (kick, name not available)
TG—Djam 48 run (kick, name not available)
TG—Kaliszewski 27 run (kick, name not available)
Rushing — Totino-Grace 36-253, Elks 43-123
Passing — Totino-Grace 9-16-103-0, Elks 2-6-18-9
Total plays-yards — Totino-Grace 52-356, Elks 50-141
Turnovers — none
Penalties — Totino-Grace 2-30
Rushing —Kaliszewski 18-108, Kez Flomo 5-23, Djam 4-57, Kai Barber 7-51, Benick 2-4
Passing — LaPanta 9-16-103-0
Receiving — Charlie Miller 1-32, Max Walker 2-13, Djam 1-14, Benick 1-8, Flom 1-5, Barber 1-13, Darylm Waindim 1-5
Sacks — Jared Schmidt, Joey Schiller
Elk River statistics
Rushing —Jordan Johnson 8-13, Denis Bardashevskiy 9-25, Austin Larson 8-39, Maclean Berglove 8-18, Devin Donelson 3-0, William Hoff 2-11, Zach Ernst 2-2, Ryan Osberg 1-6, Nate Storby 2-9
Passing — Johnson 2-5-18-0, Larson 0-1-0-0
Receiving — Berglove 2-18