The 2008 opener kicked off in grand fashion. Another trip to Hopkins and another missed turn on 169 for this guy. While I was scurrying into the stadium across the Hopkins campus the Royals were scoring without me as quarterback Sean Borman released a bomb to Montez Wilkerson for an 80 yard strike.
The Royals used their Spread attack to jump on Owatonna quickly reminding the Huskies of last year's 35-14 thumping in Owatonna. But this is a bigger, stronger, and more experienced Huskies group that has added a few pieces and their Winged T formation pushed them down the field in four minutes for a touchdown of there own.
So the stage was set. The new age Spread Attack against the classic Winged T. And at the outset it looked like the Huskies were going to gain control as they were able to drive the length of the field for scores three times early. Meanwhile, after the initial explosion Hopkins sputtered a step. Sure they had a Borman to Marcus Williams score of about 29 yards but there was luck involved. Owatonna all-state defensive back Kyle Melcher has more interceptions then anybody in state the last two years and it looked like he had another. But what happened on his break to the ball was a reach and tip went sent the ball fluttering into the end zone where Marcus Williams had the easiest touchdown catch of his career.
The next two series went more in the direction of Owatonna. Hopkins worked with Marcus Williams taking the snaps but everybody on the Huskies defense quickly shouted out a call and it was obvious to them that Williams would not be throwing to any of the four wideouts. So Owatonna had solved this portion of the spread.
Bringing Borman back in Hopkins began to establish the ground attack with senior Terrel Sinkfield as well as take advantage of Wilkerson's speed running out-routes. Borman attacked the Huskies inside and out and with Owatonna defenders being forced to cover sideline to sideline the Hopkins bigs upfront took over. Already with three yard splits between them Ryan Williams, Ben Zats and company gave Sinkfield even more room to run as he hit massive gaps in the line and began to reel of runs of 17 yards, 11 yards, nine yards, and then explosions of 30 and more in the second half.
Owatonna's problems then became two-fold. First off they weren't quick enough to get to Sinkfield until the Hopkins senior was eight yards past the line of scrimmage. When they did get to Sinkfield the Huskies were trying to tackle high or just arm tackle and with Sinkfield's strength and balanced running motion Owatonna just could not bring him down. For the game Sinkfield ran for a pair of 17 yard scores and totaled 176 yards on 17 carries.
Then there was Wilkerson's day as he put up three touchdowns and 256 yards receiving. He caught seven balls total and several times he ran down and outs sitting in space. In that space Borman found him with a cannon and then Wilkerson just turned to gallop for more. His second score was a simple seven-yard out but Montez caught and broke three arm tackles before sprinting 76 yards for score number two. His third TD covered a distance of seven yards.
With turnovers, penalties, and missed tackles Owatonna fans traveled home stating that they killed themselves and they did in many varieties. They gave up 513 yards of total offense but had 439 yards themselves.
First half mistakes were the killer. Owatonna had zero trouble moving the football on Hopkins for the first 30 minutes give or take. They put up TDs on their first two possessions and then an incredible touchdown catch by Melcher was sandwiched between some bonehead errors.
The first mistake saw the Huskies screw up a first and goal from the two in the second quarter. They failed twice to punch it in from the minute distance and then on third down they were called for illegal motion. The Royals would then hold them to a field goal. And after a long third quarter drive that pounded the Hopkins defense Owatonna fumbled on there own one yard line. There was also a mid-field drive that was over before it started because a holding penalty made a simple first and ten a first and 24.
Let's also credit the Hopkins defense for their tightening efforts as the game went on. Holding a team to 439 yards is not exactly something to be proud of but as the game moved on the Owatonna scampers of eight, nine, and seven yards were becoming trudges of two, four, and one yards. Guys like Hopkins senior Anthony Retica held their ground and limited some carries.
And by limited I mean on a series or two. After the Wilkerson score of 76 yards Owatonna marched right down the field behind the massive back of Casey Dehn. The culmination was an 18 yard score from halfback Collin Wencl where Dehn knocked aside a couple guys and Wencl just jogged in behind the big Badger commit.
Several of the Owatonna drives went right through the four and six holes to the either side of Dehn. At one point the Huskies ran five very similar variations right to the six hole between Dehn and tight end Melcher. Casey played almost the entire game competing as an offensive tackle and defensive end on the three-man line. His run blocking cleared space like a dozing rig on the right side and in pass blocking no ends beat Casey around the shoulder.
Defensively he had his moments but the 6-foot-6, 270 pound space eater was double teamed for most of the game. He had one big knock down of the Hopkins quarterback splitting the double but he also had plays where the internal wind was getting to him as was the pair of Hopkins tackles. Defensively the most impressive play saw Dehn blow inside off the line through the B gap and catch Sinkfield trying to run through the opposite C gap with an outstretched paw.
On that same drive Hopkins was able to score on the seven yard pass to Wilkerson taking a 41-30 lead. Owatonna still had a chance but they had to move quickly. But when Owatonna quarterback Neil Eddie sailed a pass over a teammate's head the ball landed in the hands of defender Alex Powell which resulted in a 46 yard score the other way. This would be the nail in the coffin and began the exodus of the Hopkins students who barely noticed a game was being played.
In the end Hopkins outlasted and basically ran by Owatonna 48-30. While the Huskies had seven more first downs then the Royals it was the big plays and 513 total yards of offense that made the difference.
Of course Wilkerson's combination of great hands, routes, and quick feet made a huge impression and that was expected. The guy who grabbed a nice share of the headlines tonight was Sinkfield who put up 176 yards in grand style. This 6-foot-1, 180-pound back was commonly hitting gaping holes in the line and then recording double figure runs. He also changed direction several times as a gap would fill only to find another hole in the line that he hit like a Bugatti Veyron.
Creating those holes were standouts like Ryan Williams and Ben Zats. I was very impressed with the quick feet and the speed coming out of the stance that Zats showed. In pass protection I thought he did a solid job of staying square tonight and he really used his hands to control the defending lineman. He also pulled extremely well and led through the hole quickly finding the plugging backer. Zats just seemed ideal for this offense.
Owatonna finished the night with 367 yards on the ground and their big nasties are well taught on the line. Of course Owatonna ran a lot behind Dehn and Melcher but the rest of the interior played very well themselves as the Huskies also went up the gut often. And Blayze Peterson ran hard in his first game for the Huskies. Blaze was down on himself for the big holding penalty early in the second half but he did carry the ball 14 times and turn it into 136 yards.
As far as Melcher goes the fans of the metro got a little taste of his all around ability. On the 17 yard TD reception Melcher was able to get Marcus Williams to his inside with his size and then break right in the end zone. Williams is one of the better cover corners in Minnesota and has speed to close but at 6-foot-7 Melcher was quick enough to maintain separation and then haul in a fingertip catch that was stretched and pulled down in a motion of pure beauty.
Melcher also had a strong game blocking on the edge teaming with Dehn. Kyle's all around ability is known statewide. He's a 6-foot-7 left handed pitcher with tools, a double-double threat on the basketball court, and of course a multi talented football player who has played tight end, quarterback, and defensive back in his career earning all-conference honors at each position. Kyle's also recorded 14 interceptions in the last two seasons plus he has to be the third best tight end in state behind Ra'Shede Hageman and Taylor Nelson.
Expect to see Owatonna learn and improve from this game and be a factor in section one come playoffs. They are going to be double tough to beat in the Big Nine Conference this year. As far as Hopkins goes, if they can utilize the spread offense to this level all year long they are going to have a strong season. The teams that will have a chance against the attack have to be athletic in the back seven or they will not catch Sinkfield, Williams, or Wilkerson.