By MICHAEL RAND, Star Tribune

Attention, local Division I college coaches, particularly those located in Dinkytown: You should be sold on Champlin Park running back Michael Sales.

Yes, he’s only a sophomore. And yes, the present defeated the future Friday night when Blaine (No. 3 in the metro) and star senior dual-threat quarterback Eric Kline (also the real deal) defeated the No. 9 Rebels 28-21 in a meeting of Northwest Suburban rivals that both came in 2-0. But the consensus is that Sales has a chance to be not just great but special.

“He’s unbelievable,” Blaine coach Shannon Gerrety said. “Our game plan was to stop him.”

Listed at 6 feet, 175 pounds, Sales runs with a combination of power, speed, balance, shiftiness and purpose that might remind a few people of a fellow who wears No. 28 for the Vikings. People who watched Sales for years in youth football raved about how good he was going to be in high school.

That almost came last year.

“He would have been a kid we might have looked at as a freshman,” Rebels coach Mike Korton said. That’s rare at a big school like Champlin Park. And since the Rebels already had senior standout Brandon Marquardt in the backfield last year, they kept Sales on a slower track.

This year, the reins are off. Replacing Marquardt — who had nearly 2,000 yards from scrimmage last year and scored 27 touchdowns — is a tall order. But Sales rushed for 394 yards in his first two games — a total good enough to lead all Class 5A metro rushers going into this week. In defeat Friday, he had 109 yards on 24 carries — tough yards that often involved making something out of nothing with either a cutback or a broken tackle.

“He’s a player,” Kline said of Sales. “And he’s just a sophomore. That’s scary.”

The 6-4 Kline, threatening to leave the metro in the dust with 600 yards passing in his first two games, had just 92 Friday. Instead, he beat the Rebels with his legs: 140 yards and three scores at the break alone, and 188 rushing yards on 30 carries at the finish.

A key three-turnovers-in-three-plays sequence late in the first half proved to be huge. With the Bengals leading 21-7, an interception gave Blaine the ball at midfield. Kline’s fumble gave the ball right back, but another pick — this one by Mike Zrust — set Blaine up for a late score that made it 28-7 at the break.

The Rebels rallied within 28-21 midway through the fourth quarter, but Kline converted two third downs to salt away a good chunk of clock, and an interception by Chris Thomas sealed the game with 1:27 remaining.

“I’ll take my guy Kline,” Gerrety said, noting both teams have special players.

Kline, clocked at 4.6 seconds in the 40, is taking an unofficial visit to the U on Saturday and plans to be at the USC-Gophers game.

As for Sales? There could be quite a recruiting battle ahead — along with plenty of big Fridays (and Saturdays).


Highlight videos of the Champlin Park vs Blaine game courtesy of Coon Rapids Sports on YouTube


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