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Posted by Guest (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 10/8/2012 9:08:42 AM

By Brian Jerzak
John’s Journal correspondent

Sometimes when covering high school sports I have a basic story laid out in my head by halftime. Usually when one team has a 20-point halftime lead it is safe to start forming a basic outline of how to describe how the team was able to dominate its opponent. Once in a while that approach backfires and the story completely changes. The first Battle for the Apple trophy game between Apple Valley-based football programs – the Apple Valley Eagles and the Eastview Lightning -- was one of those games.

There was more than a share of first place in the South Suburban Conference on the line on Friday night.

As a fan, Eastview senior Ben Wunderlich knew the outcome of this game would affect the rest of the school year.

“Whoever wins this game, it is really about who owns the city of Apple Valley,” he said. “If we win it, no matter who wins in the other sports, we get to own the city and if they win it we are going to hear about it all year. Everybody knows everybody around here.”

Eastview head coach Kelly Sherwin said, “We have been two schools here for 16 or 17 years, so to have a city championship has been a long time coming, but more importantly to do it with (KARE-TV anchor Randy Shaver’s) Tackle Cancer, (makes it special). We think we have a healthy rivalry, we really respect their coaching staff. If we can have this rivalry game and rally around a common cause, the player barbeque we had was outstanding – the two teams eating together. We can do a lot of good for more than just ourselves.”

“We grow up with the (Eastview) kids,” said Apple Valley fan and senior Jordan Olson. “We go to elementary school with these kids and we split at the high school level. We all know each other.”

When senior Eagles running back Dom McDew-Stauffer lined up at quarterback in a Wildcat formation and raced around the left end for a 70-yard touchdown, it gave the host Eagles a commanding 26-0 lead just a few plays into the second half.

I don’t think there was a fan who didn’t think that effectively put away the Lightning – except for everyone on the Eastview sideline.

The first half could not have gone much worse for the Lightning, who had not lost or given up a single point to their crosstown rivals since 2008. Penalties, turnovers, poor special teams play and strong play from the Eagle offensive line gave the home team a quick 14-0 lead. The Eagles capped a dominating first half with a 38-yard touchdown reception by senior David Johnson. Johnson converted it on a fourth down with under a minute to play to go into the half leading 20-0.

“We weren’t ready for (the first-half offensive explosion),” said Eastview senior defensive tackle Marshall Lang. “When we kept our normal defense out there we could stop them. We stopped doing special things and we decided we outworked them over the offseason (weight) lifting, so in the end that was what we needed -- that and some heart.”

After the McDew-Stauffer touchdown, things started to click for the Lightning. Just a few plays after the lead grew to 26, junior quarterback Mark Dwyer put the ball right on Henry McIsaac when the senior cut across the middle. McIsaac didn’t even have to break stride and after breaking a tackle found nothing but open field. The 58-yard touchdown got Eastview, which opened in 1997, on the board and finally gave their fans something to cheer for.

A three and out, a short punt, a 15-yard penalty and a Dwyer to senior tight end Ben Oberfeld touchdown pass cut the lead to 26-14. The Eastview defense – especially the front seven --came out with a completely different attitude in the second half and forced a second consecutive punt. A sign that it might be the Lightning’s day occurred on their drive following the Eagles’ second punt.

With the Lightning driving and facing a second and five, they fumbled the ball. The Lightning were not only able to recover the fumble, but also pick up the first down off the recovery. Sophomore workhorse Will Rains bulldozed his way into the end zone to take advantage of the fortunate bounce on the fumble to again cut into their crosstown rival’s lead. One group who picked up their play in the second half was the Lightning offensive line. They were able to move the ball in the first half, but mistakes did them in. Without the mistakes, Michael Backus, Jack Buck, Tyler Brodeur, Joey Marinello, Scott Smith, Matt Huhner and Blake Harris were able to pound away at the Eagle defense.

“I have never come back from 26 down,” said Sherwin. “Part of it is (Apple Valley) has guys that have to go two ways. They bring in their heavy package on offense and it is a lot of D-linemen and Dom (McDew-Stauffer) is out there running the ball. We knew if we could play physical all the time, we know we are going to get our runs. We will get 35 (Rains) going eventually. He is a strong kid. In the first half we made some mistakes, but we felt in the second quarter, we could move the ball. We didn’t do much different in the second half, we brought our twin guy in to control the edge a little bit.”

In order to make this kind of a comeback, the defense has to play its part as well. Not only did the Eastview defense completely shut down the Apple Valley offense since early in the third quarter, they also gave their team the lead. Junior defensive back Jahkye McClarron completed the comeback by picking off a pass and working his way down the sideline and into the end zone. In just over a quarter, Eastview scored 29 unanswered points to turn a 26-0 deficit into a 29-26 lead.

The Eagles were not going to roll over, however. They would move the ball twice inside the Lightning 30, but both times come away without any points. On the game’s final drive, Valley converted on a fourth and one near midfield but couldn’t convert later in the drive. A harmless incompletion on fourth and long clinched the big comeback for Eastview and gave the Lightning the first chance to put the Apple Trophy in its trophy case.

The first in hopefully a long series of trophy games was a classic and worthy of the trophy, the cause and the fans and players who were part of the first Battle for the Apple.



 


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