by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
Whatever Elk River was selling, Centennial wasn’t buying.
The Cougars stymied the Elks 26-7 in the home opener Friday evening, shutting off the long runs on misdirection plays that were the Elks hallmark in their 6-6 season last year that included a win at Centennial.
The Cougars limited the Elks to 175 yards on 44 rushes, and zero yards passing in four attempts. When the Elks tried to cross up the Cougars by throwing to the end zone, they intercepted at the one-yard line.
“You did a great job,” Cougar coach Mike Diggins told his team afterward. “That’s a real good football team over there, with one of the best running backs in the state.”
Elk fullback Denis Bardashevskiy battled for 102 yards in 23 attempts. Big plays were not happening. He had one 19-yard gain, one 13, the rest all single digits.
Centennial’s Tucker Trettel slashed for 118 yards and two touchdowns in 23 attempts. Tyler Iaquinto added 77 yards in 11 carries.
“They out-coached us, that’s for sure,” said Elk coach Steve Hamilton. “I didn’t do a very good job preparing the team, and that’s on me. The kids are working hard. We will just have to keep working hard.”
Diggins credited defensive coordinator Matt Watson with an excellent game plan, and his scout team for “giving us a really good look at an offense that’s hard to duplicate.”
Centennial’s offensive backups emulated the Elks offense that put up some big numbers last year.
“It’s not that tricky, but hard to execute,” said Diggins.
Most of the Elk line, along with one of the quarterbacks, Austin Larson, and the record-setting fullback return, but the offense hasn’t busted loose yet in two games. The opener was a 56-17 loss to the state’s best team, Eden Prairie. Centennial looked like a winnable game.
“Steve is one of best coaches around, and he got us last year,” said Diggins, “This year, a few breaks fell our way, and they missed some tackles on some key plays, and that’s the way it goes.”
The Elks had three good drives, but only one ended in pay dirt, that coming on William Hoff’s six-yard burst in the first quarter to tie the game 7-7.
With the Elks down 13-7, backup quarterback Trent Pink directed a second-quarter drive that got inside the 20, but the Cougars stopped a 4th-and-4 run by Bardashevskiy.
The Elks opened the second half with a gamble that didn’t work as Austin Larson’s onside kick didn’t travel 10 yards. The Cougars made them pay with a 47-yard drive capped by Trettel’s 18-yard run.
Down 20-7, the Elks marched to the Cougars’ 12. That’s when Hamilton called the first pass of the evening. Larson’s toss intended for Zach Ernst was a little under-thrown and Michael Pierson swiped it at the one.
“If they score there, and not throw the pick, it’s a whole different ballgame,” said Diggins. He added, “A lot of teams try to throw on our 5-8 corners but they actually are pretty good. Mike had six interceptions last year.”
Said Hamilton: “We had our chances. I probably should not have called what I did down there. After not finishing the drive right before the half, it was disheartening for the kids to come up short again.”
Hamilton said the loss reminded him of a last-minute loss at Andover last year.
“We had no big plays, just long, slow drives, and there was two drives we didn’t finish tonight. We’ve got to finish those, because we aren’t breaking anything big.”
Centennial’s other scores were Ryan Meany’s 7-yard pass to Jake Kalgren in the second quarter, and freshman Riley Trettel’s 27-yard run with 18 seconds left in the game.
Hamilton said the team was all present this week including three players who were dinged up in the loss to Eden Prairie.
The Elks will try break into the win column next week at Maple Grove.
Centennial 26, Elk River 7
Centennial …. 7 7 6 6 — 26
Elk River ……. 7 0 0 0 — 0
Cen—Tucker Trettel 1 run (Michael Pierson kick)
ER—William Hoff 6 run (Austin Larson kick)
Cen—Jake Kalgren 7 pass from Ryan Meany (Pierson kick)
Cen—Trettel 18 run (kick failed)
Cen—Riley Trettel 27 run (kick failed)
Rushing (attempts-yards)— Elks 44-175, Centennial 51-264
Passing (att-comp-yards-int) — Elks 1-4-0-1, Centennial 4-9-23-0
Penalties-yards — Elks 4-30, Centennial 7-65
Turnovers — Elks 1, Centennial 0
Rushing — Tyler Iaquinto 11-77, T. Trettel 23-118, Carl Schoephoerster 11-34, R. Trettel 1-27, Meany 5-8
Passing — Meany 4-9-23-0
Receiving — Schoephoerster 1-9, Kalgren 2012, T. Trettel 1-2
Interception — Pierson
Elk River offensive statistics
Rushing — Zach Ernst 10-33, Denis Bardashevskiy 23-102, Larson 4-5, Hoff 4-22, Trent Pink 3-13
Passing — Larson 1-4-0-1
Receiving — Bardashevskiy 1-0
(Statistics unofficial; compiled by Star News)