by Tom Yelle
Staff writer

Coon Rapids overcame three first-half turnovers and a 12-3 deficit to beat Northwest Suburban newcomer Armstrong Friday night, 16-12.

Junior running back Mo Ward, who was guilty of a first-half fumble that set up an Armstrong touchdown, not only held onto the ball during the second half, but proved to be an unstoppable force. Ward, who finished with 164 yards rushing, was a second-half battering ram, taking the game’s momentum from Armstrong and giving it to Coon Rapids along with a season’s second win.

Ward was a big part of Coon Rapids opening third-quarter drive that closed the gap from nine to two points. In less than four minutes, Ward pounded the ball at Armstrong’s defense, picking up big chunks to help the Cardinals reach the 8-yard line.

From that point on the field, Ward’s running back teammate Shaquille Theus was given the ball on a play around the left side. It turned out to be a quick sweep to the end zone for the junior speedster, who slipped in untouched.

Coon Rapids continued to dominate the third quarter, but did not score again until 1:46 had expired in the fourth. A penalty along with a short punt from the end zone set up Coon Rapids at the Armstrong 28-yard line. Then —  on the first play — Ward burst through the line and to the end zone for what proved to be the game-winning touchdown.

A failed two-point conversion play following the touchdown left Coon Rapids with just a four-point lead and more than 10 minutes to play. But with some ball-control running by Ward and steady play by the Coon Rapids defense, four points was enough.

During the first half it did not look like much would stick for Coon Rapids — notably the football — which was given to Armstrong on a regular basis via two fumbles and an interception.

After kicker Josh Hrab booted Coon Rapids to a 3-0 first-quarter lead with a 41-yard field goal, Armstrong’s Nick Brugnoli converted back-to-back opportunities following Coon Rapids turnovers to score touchdowns — one from 27 yards and the other from four yards. After both touchdowns, though, extra points were missed.

Coon Rapids was fortunate to have faced just a nine-point deficit at halftime.

Earlier in the half, the defense made a fourth-down stop inside the 1-yard line. Then, after the third turnover and an Armstrong march inside the 10-yard line during the final minute of the first half, a sure touchdown pass was dropped in the end zone.

Defensive adjustments were made over halftime and Ward took charge offensively in the second. The result: Coon Rapids was not threatened again.


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