Panthers keep mistakes to a minimum

North has no penalties or turnovers in 62-0 rout of Burnsville

Lakeville North’s Braden Walsh pulls down Burnsville quarterback Marcus Shepley. Photo by Jim Lindquist/sidekick.smugmug.com

After ending the 2016 season with a bad taste in their mouths, Lakeville North’s players wanted to make sure 2017 didn’t start the same way.

Burnsville found itself in the path of a motivated Panthers team eager to make a point and couldn’t keep up in a 62-0 North victory Aug. 31 in the first week of the high school football season.

Lakeville North rushed for 355 yards and returned two interceptions for touchdowns as it warmed up for its Class 6A heavyweight matchup at Eden Prairie at 7 p.m. Friday. Burnsville managed just 117 yards.

“All summer long, our kids wore T-shirts that said, ‘Compete,’ ” North coach Brian Vossen said. “We talked about it before the game. I didn’t think we ended our season last year competing like we can (the Panthers lost to Totino-Grace 42-14 in the Class 6A quarterfinals). So this off-season was about playing in the moment, enjoying the opportunity to play every down, every rep, every day, and not allowing the scoreboard to dictate what we were doing.

“I thought the kids played hard regardless of how much they were up. We saw that when we got our backups in the game.”

Five Lakeville North players gained at least 45 yards on the ground, led by Brian Curtis Jr., who rushed for 120 yards on 12 carries and scored three times.

“Today was a great step forward,” said North offensive lineman Nathan Boe. “We’re always a run-heavy team. Run blocking is what I love to do. It’s a passion of mine. We have a great line this year and I can’t wait to get going.”

Curtis scored his first two touchdowns in the first quarter. Things came apart for the Blaze in the second quarter as North scored four touchdowns and built its lead to 41-0 at halftime. The blitz included touchdown runs by Ryan Dalrymple and quarterback Brennan Kuebler, a touchdown pass from Kuebler to Owen Blascizek, and a 41-yard interception return by Braden Walsh.

Curtis and Cole Brenno scored rushing touchdowns in the second half, while Brendan Rehborg returned an interception for a score. North forced four Burnsville turnovers, three interceptions and a fumble.

The Panthers, on the other half, looked close to flawless, even though Vossen and Boe said they have plenty to fix. Lakeville North had no turnovers and committed no penalties.

“No penalties, no turnovers? That’s a huge rarity in Week 1. No way you can predict there will be no penalties,” Vossen said. “But we talked about that. We said the team that makes no dumb mistakes and protects the football is going to set themselves up for an opportunity to win the game.”

Senior captain Tre Thomas had a busy two-way game for Burnsville, rushing for 52 yards and making seven tackles. Marcus Shepley, making his first start at quarterback, completed four of 12 passes for 51 yards. Gabe Johnson made seven tackles and Randy Kim six for the Blaze, which plays Eastview in its home opener at 7 p.m. Friday.

Walsh, Nick Spitt and Charlie Kuhn made six tackles each for Lakeville North, and Nick Gregg had an interception.

Burnsville is re-tooling with a lot of new starters after going 16-5 the last two years. North’s next opponent, Eden Prairie, isn’t in the same situation. The Eagles are ranked first in Class 6A and had little trouble in their 35-7 victory over Eastview last week.

“We’re going to play a great football team next week,” Vossen said. “We wanted our kids to open the season confident. We think we have a good team. Of course, you never know until you’re actually competing. We have a lot of tough games on our schedule, and I want our kids to believe they can win every one of them.”

Boe said the Panthers got a lot of valuable things out of the Burnsville game even though the score escalated quickly.

“There certainly are things we can improve, but this was Week 1. We’ve got 12 more to go,” Boe said. “This builds confidence and momentum for next week. We just have to keep that going.”

Contact Mike Shaughnessy at [email protected]