Posts Tagged ‘Blaine Bengals Football’


Blaine’s Eric Kline: A double-trouble QB

He led the Bengals to a 10-1 season with 3,088 total yards and 34 touchdowns.

By DAVID La VAQUE, Star Tribune

Judging Blaine quarterback Eric Kline solely on his performance in the Bengals’ 34-0 loss to Wayzata in last Friday’s Class 5A quarterfinal football game is shortsighted. ¶ After all, Kline ended the first possession of his first start last season with an interception, an almost forgotten footnote for the player who became the state’s finest dual-threat quarterback. And while the Wayzata loss provided an unfortunate ending, Kline’s outstanding senior season earned him Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year honors.

“That loss doesn’t change the player Eric has been for us,” Blaine coach Shannon Gerrety said. “He’s done everything we’ve asked. He’s a complete winner.”

This fall, Kline provided 3,088 total yards and 34 touchdowns, led the Bengals in rushing and got them into the state tournament with a 10-0 record. Off the field, he took a leadership role by organizing passing drills and becoming a fixture in the weight room.

“I wanted to provide energy and set an example by making the right decisions,” Kline said.

Though soundly beaten by Wayzata — Kline managed just 86 yards of total offense and threw two interceptions — he showed character after the game by giving reporters his best explanations for why a promising season ended with a thud.

“That’s what a man does,” his coach said.

Later in the evening, Kline joined a half-dozen teammates at the home of wide receiver Evan Spurbeck. The group talked into the wee hours, reminiscing about their many football glories from the time they first played together in second grade right up through their senior year.

“We spent a lot of time dreaming about going to state as seniors so it’s weird to think that it has already come and gone,” Kline said. “We really came together, and I’ll never forget the connections we made.”

Gerrety installed the spread offense prior to the 2008 season and under the guidance of James Peterson, another superb dual-threat quarterback, the Bengals reached the state championship game.

Then a sophomore wide receiver and backup quarterback, Kline later became Peterson’s successor. As a junior, Kline accounted for 2,491 total yards and 30 touchdowns and led Blaine to a 8-2 season that ended in the section championship game.

Returning to state this season required Kline’s gutsiest performance. A separated left (non-throwing) shoulder forced him to miss the first two days of practice and limited his snaps the next two days.

Playing through pain, Kline posted 318 total yards, including 24 carries for 183 yards and four touchdowns as the Bengals defeated Andover 40-14 in the section final.

“He never went out of bounds,” Gerrety said. “He would cut back on runs and look for more yards.”

Kline said his shoulder in no way affected Blaine’s loss to Wayzata. He gave the Trojans’ defense credit for overwhelming team speed.

With the football season over, Kline is looking forward to running track. He is on the fence about playing basketball. Also uncertain are his college plans. Among the 15 schools showing interest are Division I programs North Dakota, North Dakota State and South Dakota State. Playing quarterback is Kline’s preference, but he is flexible.

“I’m not sure what these schools are looking for,” Gerrety said. “But Eric will be somebody’s gold mine.”


Star Tribune First Team All-Metro


Eric Kline

Blaine • Sr. • QB

Tall (6-4), strong and fast, Kline became the state’s premiere dual-threat quarterback. Amassed 3,088 total yards and 34 touchdowns, led the Bengals in rushing and got them into the Class 5A tournament with a 10-0 record.

Reggie Gandy

DeLaSalle • Sr. • RB

Posted incredible numbers of 2,606 rushing yards (10.1 yards per carry) and 33 touchdowns. Rushed for more than 300 yards in five different games. Carried the Islanders into the Class 3A tournament.

Andrew Larson

Eden Prairie • Jr. • RB

Matched good size (5-10, 185) with balance and speed to produce more than 1,600 rushing yards and 20 TDs for an Eagles team ranked No. 1 much of the season. Excels at gaining yards after contact.

Sam Sura

South St. Paul • Jr. • RB

Tough fullback earned many of his 1,945 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns the hard way. But he rarely fumbled and went down easily even less. Offensive MVP of the Classic Suburban Conference and leader of the resurgent Packers.

Steven Kiesel

Breck • Sr. • WR

Measures 5-9 and 170 pounds, but those are not the important numbers. Tormented defenses with 94 catches for 1,250 yards and 13 touchdowns and impressed opposing coaches with his toughness.

Dylan Ulferts

Shakopee • Sr. • WR

Dynamic playmaker who made things happen all season despite double teams. Caught 50 balls for 820 yards (16.4 average) and 11 touchdowns. Added another 509 yards rushing (10.2 average) and six scores.

Joe Bjorklund

Rosemount • Sr. • OL

South Suburban Conference lineman of the year. Measures 6-5, 285. Explosive athlete drawing interest from Michigan State and Wisconsin. Powered the formidable Irish rushing attack.

Alex Jarosz

Totino-Grace • Sr. • OL

Used his 6-4, 265-pound frame to clear holes for the Eagles’ running game. Constantly drives defenders downfield and often dumps them in the secondary.

Nick Jacobs

Delano • Sr. • OL

Considered by some coaches to be the state’s best offensive lineman. Tremendous feet for his size (6-5, 275) and has the quickness and speed to pull and lead running backs to the hole. Iowa, Iowa State and Wisconsin showing interest.

Tommy Olson

Mahtomedi • Sr. • OL

Widely viewed as the state’s best lineman. Committed to the Gophers. Played at guard and tackle. Relentless drive blocker with the size (6-4, 290) and strength to overpower defenders. Plays with a mean streak.

T.J. Woodrow

Eden Prairie • Sr. • OL

Key cog of the line that sprang Andrew Larson to a solid season. Moved around depending on the play and usually an indicator of where the play was going. At 6-3, 270, has the ability to pull.


Brandt Berghuis

Rosemount • Sr. • DL

Team’s third-leading tackler with 17 tackles for loss through the section tournament. Key part of pesky Irish defense that allows under 12 points per game.

Nick Goldsmith

Mounds View • Sr. • DL

Named the defensive lineman of the year in the Suburban East Conference. Had 35 solo tackles. Coach says there is “no more important player” to the team’s defense.

Jonathan Harden

Cretin-Derham Hall • Jr. • DL

Already a two-year starter as a 6-foot, 300-pound unblockable force for one of the state’s best teams. Made four tackles for loss in one game.

Joe Zrust

Totino-Grace •

Sr. • DL

Three-year starter at nose guard in the Eagles’ 3-4 defense. Gets good inside pressure that has garnered interest from Ivy League schools. Simply put, one coach said, “He’s a dude.”

Alex Meixell

Rogers • Sr. • LB

A force who helped lead state’s most impressive defense this season (Rogers had five shutouts). Named co-MVP of the Mississippi 8 Conference with 113 tackles, three fumbles recovered and a sack.

Will Ratelle

St. Thomas Academy • Sr. • LB

Mr. Football nominee with 91 tackles (10 for loss), three forced fumbles and an interception returned for a score. Some view the 5-11, 225 stalwart as the best football player overall in Class 4A.

Peter Westerhaus

Holy Family • Sr. • LB

Gophers verbal recruit drew interest from teams coast to coast to the small school in Victoria. Plays both ways but is at his best as a linebacker, where the 6-4, 225-pounder made 87 total tackles during regular season.

David Boegel

Wayzata • Sr. • DB

Coach Brad Anderson said coordinator Matt Lombardi built the stout Trojans defense around him. Five of the first eight games of the season ended in double-digit tackle totals.

James Farrow

Minnetonka • Sr. • DB

The fluid Virginia Tech recruit likes to hit, making 30 solo tackles while grabbing three interceptions. Returned one 90 yards for a TD. A dangerous return man (13.3 yards per punt return, 23 yards per kick return); one punt returned for a TD.

Grayson Levine

Eden Prairie • Sr. • DB

Plays both ways. A physical defender who also has the speed to keep up with the competition. An agile player who supports the run well.

Frank Veldman

Eastview • Sr. • DB

The 6-4, 200-pound free safety was named defensive player of the year in the new South Suburban Conference. Earned Metro Player of the Year votes.

Marcus Jones

Edina • Sr. • K

Perfect in all 14 extra point attempts. Made six of nine field goals, including a 41-yarder; three came against Minnetonka, winning the game.


Star Tribune Second & Third Team All-Metro




• Bill Gregg, Hopkins, sr.: More than 2,700 yards and 31 TDs passing.

Running backs

• Ezekiel Okeleye, East Ridge, sr.: Rushed for 1,508 yards and 16 TDs

• Trevor Lueders, Glencoe-Silver Lake, sr.: Converted DE rushed for more than 1,000 yards.


• Jimmy Duffy, Mounds View, sr.: State’s best TE prospect, blocks well, runs better.

• Andrew McDonald, Hopkins, jr.: Speedster is a big play waiting to happen.

• Joey Sonnenfeld, Osseo, sr.: Dual threat as a WR and on defense as a safety.

Offensive linemen

• Josh Colville, Minnetonka, sr.: Extremely agile and quick for his size (6-3, 270)

• Josh Corbin, Northfield, sr.: Physical, explosive and versatile enough to play guard and tackle.

• Ryan Kelley, Centennial, sr.: 318-pound tackle averaged four pancake blocks per game.

• Trenton Nady, Holy Family, sr.: Tall and athletic with excellent lateral movement.

• John Petrie, Wayzata, sr.: Strong and relentless, leader of overwhelming line.


• Andrew Lewis, St. Paul Central, sr.: Do-everything type who always makes a play.



Logan LaCourse, Shakopee, sr.: Plugged up the middle of the field and made plays.

Donny Longendyke, White Bear Lake, sr.: Headed to Nebraska on a wrestling scholarship.

Jesse Reemtsma, Spring Lake Park, sr.: Speed led to 62 tackles and six sacks.

Devin Waters, Rogers, sr.: Used long arms to lead team in pass breakups.


Nick McBeain, Shakopee, jr.: Returned all four interceptions for scores.

Willie Roller, Cretin-Derham Hall, sr.: Tough-hitting player with good size.

Andrew Rose, Stillwater, sr.: 82 tackles, 16 for a loss.

Chris Thomas, Blaine, sr.: Scored four defensive touchdowns.

Defensive backs

Sean Hamlin, Wayzata, sr.: Quietly held best receivers to their worst days.

Jake Schauer, Totino-Grace, sr.: Closes on ball fast and tackles well.

Charles Webb, Minnetonka, jr.: Made big plays (four touchdowns) and bigger hits.


Tom Obarski, Apple Valley, sr.: Handled Eagles’ kicking and punting with equal aplomb.




• Quarterbacks: Jameson Parsons, Eagan; Tyler Finnes, Andover.

• Running backs: Brenton Braddock, Mahtomedi; Andrew Hausmann, Rosemount; Taz Seibert, Norwood-Young America; C.J. Smith, Burnsville;

• Receivers: James Fort, Annandale; Derek Vidor, Rogers; Rodney Pierce-Tyler, Mpls. Southwest.

• Offensive linemen: Teddy DeFrane, Sibley East; Zach Johnson, Eastview; Ryan Link, Rosemount; Luke Marks, St. Thomas Academy; Nick Olson, Richfield; Sam Smith, South St. Paul.

• Athlete: Ayrton Scott, Mpls. Southwest.


• Linemen: Sam Berg, New Life Academy; Patrick Faber, Fridley; Tyler Hartmann, Andover; Greg Lofquist, South St. Paul; Cameron Vanderwall, St. Paul Central.

• Linebackers: Tom Lawless, Mpls. Southwest; Weslee Kavanagh, Orono; Ethan Miller, Lakeville South; Josh Vaughn, Bloomington Kennedy.

• Defensive backs: David Morgan, Rosemount; Nick Rallis, Edina, jr; Peter Vakulskas, Holy Family; Bobby Wills, Henry Sibley.

• Kicker: Eric Mielke, Cambridge-Isanti.


A much-anticipated showdown between the top two teams quickly became one-sided.

By DAVID La VAQUE, Star Tribune

Late in a first half that saw Wayzata’s defense flush, flummox and flatten him, Blaine quarterback Eric Kline once again found himself on the run.

Forced to his left with Trojans’ defenders in hot pursuit and clawing at the football in his right hand, Kline switched the ball to his left hand while trying to get out of bounds — one more case of him acting out of desperation rather than design.

Blitzing Wayzata defenders shut down the state’s best dual threat quarterback and turned a meeting of the state’s two best teams into a rout. Defensive pressure and four Aaron Roth touchdowns pushed No. 1 Wayzata (9-0) to a 34-0 victory in Friday’s Class 5A state tournament quarterfinal at Osseo.

“Eric had guys in his face all night,” Blaine coach Shannon Gerrety said. “I felt bad for him. That was a different level of football tonight.”

Heading into Friday, No. 2 Blaine’s (10-1) spread offense averaged 38.1 points per game. One possession against Wayzata indicated the Bengals’ attack would come up short of the mark. Kline got sacked twice, forcing him into his duties as Blaine’s punter. New role, same result. Wayzata’s special teams put a rush on and tackled Kline at the Bengals’ 18-yard line. Kline, who accounted for 3,002 total yards and 34 touchdowns this season, was held to 27 yards rushing on 22 carries and completed 9 of 14 passes for 59 yards and two interceptions.

“Tonight was our night,” Wayzata coach Brad Anderson said. “We jumped on them early. Our defense isn’t big but they fly around and get after it.”

Blaine moved the ball on its next possession as Kline completed a 15-yard pass, then broke off a 13-yard run to Wayzata’s 39-yard line. The Trojans called timeout then held serve for three plays to force another Bengals’ punt. Wayzata’s offense drove 80 yards for a second touchdown and 13-0 lead.

Two more sacks from the Trojans’ defense stifled Blaine’s next drive. Using a three-man front with one or two blitzing players off the edge, Wayzata kept the Bengals going backward en route to the Trojans’ third consecutive shutout.

“Our defensive coordinator Matt Lombardi is a mad scientist,” Anderson said. “He dreams schemes up at night.”

Members of the Wayzata crowd felt their wildest dreams come true when the public address announcer notified them of losses by six-time state champion Eden Prairie and defending state champion Cretin-Derham Hall.

“We’ll celebrate this one tonight and we’ll worry about what’s ahead tomorrow,” said a smiling Anderson.


Highlight video of the Blaine vs Wayzata playoff game courtesy of Coon Rapids Sports on YouTube


by Troy Misko

Chris Thomas did it again last weekend.

The Blaine senior somehow found a way to get his name in the scoring summary for the Bengals during the 40-14 win 7AAAAA championship game win over Andover Nov. 5.

Thomas’ performance was unremarkable in only one respect. It wasn’t the first time he scored a touchdown this year. In fact, his fourth-quarter score against Andover was his fourth touchdown this season.

Only dual-threat quarterback Eric Kline (24 rushing and 10 passing touchdowns) and running back Ben Pigorsch (14 rushing touchdowns) had scored more this season.

And while his scoring romp was noteworthy because it began 94 yards away, even that only hinted at what made it so special.

Thomas, you see, doesn’t play offense. Instead, he’s the center of Blaine ‘s defense, both literally and figuratively. He’s an inside linebacker.

And he’s a big playmaker.

His 94-yard interception return for a touchdown against Andover broke one school record and tied another. It eclipsed the Blaine record for longest interception return — classmate and fellow linebacker Alex Becker set the previous mark of 93 yards only a few weeks earlier in a win over Armstrong — and it matched Tobi Saporu’s record for defensive touchdowns in a season.

Ask Thomas to explain what happened on the play and you’ll get little more than a shoulder shrug and a matter-of-fact answer.

“It was just a read thing,” he said. “I was just doing my job. I just kind of dropped into the zone defense that we play and got the pick. I had some good blocks ahead of me. I didn’t do it all by myself.”

There’s no bravado when Thomas speaks.

There’s nary an inflection in his tone when he recounts the highlight. That’s apparently a by-product of making the spectacular seem practically routine.

Prior to Nov. 5, Thomas also had scored on one other interception return — a 37-yarder against Coon Rapids on Oct. 1 — and two fumble returns: a 43-yarder on Oct. 15 against Andover and a 61-yarder against Forest Lake on Oct. 30.

“He has had four defensive touchdowns, which is pretty impressive,” said Shannon Gerrety, Blaine ‘s head coach. “We have a lot offensive players that don’t have as many as he has. He has four on defense.

“He also has had (six) fumble causes. He has caused a few other fumbles that haven’t been called fumbles. He just has a knack for that when he tackles. He consciously strips the football. He’s really strong.

“He doesn’t look as strong as he is, but he’s very, very strong and I think he just has a way of getting the ball out. He just always does. It’s pretty impressive. He’s really something.”

Thomas has become a defensive playmaker.

It’s not just touchdowns with him. Or the forced fumbles. Or the fumble recoveries (he has three). Or the interceptions (five). Going into the first-round state tournament game this week, Thomas was also the team’s leading tackler with 110 total — 69 solo and 41 on which he had assisted.

“He’s one of those kids who just gets things done,” Gerrety stated. “He’s the guy you love to have on your team because when you need a big play, he always seems to come up with that.

“That’s kind of tough to say, when you say ‘always’ but it seems like whenever we need something done, he’s the guy [who] gets it done.”

Thomas, a self-described “undersized linebacker” at 5-foot-11 and 182 pounds, can’t tell you exactly how he gets it done so consistently. But it’s not like it’s some kind of secret for him. Rather, he’s just not sure how to explain his success.

To him, he’s not doing anything any differently than a lot of players.

Only the results are different.

“I don’t really know how I do it,” he said. “I try to go after the ball as much as possible because that’s what we preach in practice — creating as many turnovers as possible.

“At the same time, I don’t want to miss tackles while I’m trying to make strips or things like that. I just secure the runner first and then do what I can to get the ball out of there.”

Thomas did just that in the third quarter against Andover in the section final. With the Huskies’ offense backed up to its own end zone moments after its defense intercepted a long pass at its 1-yard line, Thomas stepped up and made another big play.

When Andover attempted to distance itself from the goal line with a running play up the middle, Thomas met the ball carrier at the 3-yard line, wrapped him up and began driving him back end zone, all the while working to free the ball from the runner’s hands. Thomas and the runner both wound up on the ground in the end zone.

The ball fell just outside the end zone, where Blaine recovered it to set up a Kline’s fourth touchdown run of the game. This put the Bengals comfortably ahead, 26-7.

Thomas didn’t expect to become the defensive standout he is today. He entered the program as a running back. It wasn’t until last year, just before the season began, that Blaine ‘s coaching staff switched him to his current position.

“He could be a pretty good running back, but we didn’t feel like we had the speed and the playmakers on defense last year at the beginning of the season,” Gerrety said.

“We could see that he’s unbelievably athletic. The kid is as good an all-around athlete as I’ve seen. He has such unbelievable closing speed. He can jump like nobody’s business. He’s quicker than quick.

“I nicknamed him ‘Cat’ two years ago because he’s like a cat: he’s quick as a cat, he jumps like a cat, he moves like a cat, he’s smooth, he’s fast, he’s quick. He’s really a special, special player.

“So in the second week of pre-fall, we grabbed him and made a decision to move him to defense, at inside linebacker. That was a position he hadn’t played for us before, but immediately our defense turned around because he’s just so fast and he makes plays. He had an immediate impact on our defense. It was incredible.”

Thomas was Blaine ‘s second-leading tackler (39 solo tackles, 37 assists) as a junior. He also provided a preview of what he’s doing in his senior season by forcing three fumbles, recovering a fumble and intercepting two passes.

The Bengals have had no concerns about having a playmaker on defense since.

“It’s a very good fit,” Thomas says of playing inside linebacker. “It’s a fun position to play.

“Running back is my natural position, but I just do what I can to help the team win. If that’s playing linebacker, then I have no problem with it. Whatever I can do to help the team, I’ll do it.”

Thomas has been doing plenty to help the Bengals this season. He has become the team’s defensive counterpart to Kline, who rightfully grabs the spotlight for all that he does for Blaine ‘s offense.

“I guess with the kind of the role I play now I’m kind of the playmaker on the defense — the Eric Kline of the defense, as they call me,” Thomas said.

“I’m a defensive leader. My teammates look to me to pick them up and to make plays. I try as much as I can to pick them up.”

Thomas’ efforts show, too — often in the scoring summaries.

This season we’ll have a weekly segment called “The Big One” where we feature a game with post-game articles and/or analysis including video from our friends at Coon Rapids Sports on YouTube.  Our next “Big One” of the 2010 season will be the Blaine vs Wayzata on Friday, November 12th (7:00pm) @ Osseo High School.

The Wayzata Trojans enter this game undefeated (8-0) and the top ranked team in the state of Minnesota (Class 5a).  They have played a very competitive schedule beating two other teams that have qualified for the State (5A) Tournament (Lakeville South & Eden Prairie).  Offensively the Trojans are a run-heavy team led by running back Aaron Roth (Sr).  Roth is a threat both on the ground (586 yards, 5 touchdowns) and in the air (17 receptions, 236 yards, 2 touchdowns).  However, defense is their calling card.  They are a stifling group of “no names” that only gives up an average of 12 points per game.  Their thrilling overtime win over the Eden Prairie Eagles on October 20th (28-27) was the last time an opposing team has scored on them.

Here are highlights of that Eden Prairie @ Wayzata game courtesy of WayzataTV on YouTube

The Blaine Bengals are also undefeated (10-0) and enter this game as the second ranked team in the state of Minnesota (Class 5a).  You can’t fault Blaine for the level of competition in the Northwest Suburban Conference being down this year, but they did what good teams are supposed to do against weaker opponents – they dominated them.  The Bengals are led by arguably the best dual-threat quarterback in the state in Eric Kline (Sr).  Kline leads the team in rushing with 1059 yards and 24 touchdowns, and has thrown for another 1943 yards and 10 touchdowns.  As Kline goes so goes the Blaine offense.  Defensively Blaine might be just as tough as Wayzata allowing just over 12 points per game albeit against much weaker competition.  Linebacker Chris Thomas (Sr) leads an opportunistic group with 110 total tackles, 5 interceptions and 3 fumble recoveries.  He’s also scored 4 touchdowns (2 interception returns, 2 fumble returns).

As is usually the case this time of year the winner of Section 7AAAAA must prove they are for real.  Two seasons ago Blaine won their section and knocked off Eden Prairie and Cretin-Derham Hall in consecutive weeks to reach the State Championship game, where they lost to Wayzata.  Based on strength of schedule Wayzata is the obvious favorite in this matchup.  Are the Trojans too tough for the Bengals?  Is Blaine is as good as their record indicates?  We’ll find out Friday!


Several teams dominated in section play, but now the margin for error shrinks considerably.

By DAVID LA VAQUE, Star Tribune

The eight football teams that emerged victorious from last Friday’s Class 5A section championship games did so by an average of three touchdowns. Only two games were decided by fewer than 23 points.

“I was surprised by how handily all the teams won last week,” said Mounds View coach Jim Galvin, whose Mustangs rolled to a 32-6 victory against Stillwater. “But I don’t think we’ll see that again.”

In theory, a rash of lopsided section championship games should make the big-school state tournament quarterfinals on Thursday and Friday more competitive. The eight teams boast a combined record of 75-6. Four teams — Blaine, Brainerd, Rosemount and Wayzata — are undefeated.

The marquee game pits No. 2-ranked Blaine against No. 1 Wayzata at 7 p.m. on Friday at Osseo. But intrigue flows throughout the big-school bracket.

“The matchups are great,” Blaine coach Shannon Gerrety said. “Everybody’s got a shot, and that’s what so great about this field.”

Despite facing Wayzata in the first round while Mounds View and defending Class 5A state champion Cretin-Derham Hall linger on the same side of the bracket, Gerrety is opposed to seeding. He said a lack of common opponents makes it tough to properly judge the teams.

And his underdog Bengals fought through a tough bracket in 2008, beating Eden Prairie and Cretin-Derham Hall to reach the championship game against Wayzata. Though Blaine ultimately lost and the roster is largely turned over, Gerrety hopes to harness the same spirit.

“Like we told them two years ago, we said, ‘The coaches wouldn’t have watched film for 12 hours on Sunday or had you guys under the lights at Spring Lake Park [on Tuesday] if we didn’t expect to compete hard and win,'” Gerrety said.

Blaine’s Eric Kline is the state’s top dual-threat quarterback, piling up 3,002 yards of total offense and 34 touchdowns out of the Bengals’ spread offense. But he has not seen a fast and disciplined defense like that of Wayzata, led by safety David Boegel. Offensively, Wayzata gets big plays from running back Aaron Roth.

Six-time state champion Eden Prairie, meanwhile, faces Brainerd. The Eagles were No. 1 most of the year until falling to Wayzata by one point in overtime. The Rosemount vs. Lakeville South and Cretin-Derham Hall vs. Mounds View games are replays from the regular season. Rosemount won 35-3 on Oct. 1 and Cretin-Derham Hall won 17-7 on Oct. 15. Galvin said his seniors beat the Raiders as sophomores but have not solved them on the varsity stage.

“The key for us is — can we move the ball?” Galvin said. “They’ve bottled us up pretty well.”

The Raiders’ success against the Mustangs starts with 300-pound defensive tackle Jonathan Harden. His size and quickness are tough to neutralize inside. Speaking of inside, the Mustangs reached the semifinals last season for the first time and made their Metrodome debut. A group of 13 juniors logged significant playing time.

“Once you get to the next step, it’s easier to take that same step again,” Galvin said. “It happened once we made it to state for the first time. We hope that happens again.”


In a word, Blaine senior inside linebacker Chris Thomas is different.

Some linebackers are bigger. Some make more tackles. But few, if any, change games like Thomas. His five forced fumbles and four defensive touchdowns (two interception returns, two fumble recoveries) this season set him apart.

“He is the Eric Kline of our defense,” said Bengals’ football coach Shannon Gerrety. Kline, Blaine’s quarterback, has accounted for 3,002 total yards and 34 touchdowns this season. “Anytime Chris is around the ball, something good happens.”

With Thomas leading the defense, No. 2 ranked Blaine (10-0) opens play in the Class 5A tournament quarterfinals against No. 1 Wayzata (8-0) at 7 p.m. Friday at Osseo High School. The game is a rematch of the 2008 Prep Bowl game won by the Trojans.

Thomas would like to see a different outcome this time.

“This is my first time ever making it to a state tournament,” Thomas said. “It’s a good feeling, and I want to make the best of it.”

Thomas spoke with Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about making plays and going to state.

Q I know there’s a lot to come, but talk about the ride this team has been on so far.

A It’s been a surreal season. We have great players on this team, and together we did what we set out to do so far — win the conference title and win the section title. We still have a long road ahead of us against the good teams that are in the state tournament, but we know we can do it.

Q Each year the Blaine football team has a slogan. What is it this season?

A We’re all in this year. We work hard every day.

Q Talk about your season. Four defensive touchdowns is impressive.

A I just try hard to get turnovers. The touchdowns are just bonuses. I made some good plays last season, but nothing like this. It’s an amazing feeling to score touchdowns, especially when you’re not an offensive player.

Q Do your friends on the defense call you their version of Eric Kline or anything?

A No [laughs]. Eric is an amazing player, and he’s the captain of our football team. He gives off amazing energy, and I respect him for that.

Q Your two interceptions that led to touchdowns — did those start with your film study and knowing what to look for?

A As a linebacker, I have certain reads to go through. And I pretty much just followed through with my reads and they took me right to where I needed to be. Fortunately enough I’ve made the plays.

Q As you look ahead to Wayzata, what have you and your teammates talked about in terms of that matchup?

A Wayzata is a great team, and we have a lot of work ahead of us. We’ll put the work in at practice and whatever happens, happens. I think we’re a pretty confident team. And we have a great defense. We do what we have to do to take care of business.

Q What do you remember about the Blaine-Wayzata championship game from 2008?

A Actually I was living in Louisiana. I came to Blaine as a junior.

Q So what do you think of football in Minnesota compared to what you experienced in Louisiana?

A There is a big difference. The athletes down there are a lot bigger. And football down there is life. Football is important up here, but it’s a hockey state.