Superlark defense shines in state semifinal winPublished 3:30pm Friday, November 15, 2013
MINNEAPOLIS — A year ago, Grand Meadow freshman Blake Benson was in the stands watching his older brother Bryce play in the State Nine-Man football tournament.
A month and a half ago Blake Benson was watching on the sidelines as the Superlarks were losing 47-36 to Lanesboro.
On Friday, Benson, a 6-foot, 3-inch, 202 pound defensive end, was wreaking havoc in the Kittson County Central backfield as the Larks beat the Bearcats 21-7 in the Nine-Man State Football semifinals at Mall of America Field.
Benson, who was inserted into the starting lineup after the Lanesboro game, racked up two sacks and a fumble recovery as the Superlark defense held KCC scoreless until the final quarter.
“It feels awesome. I’ve got some real good people to help me out,” Benson said. “We had a really good scouting report from our coaches. We had to keep those fast [running] backs in check and their quarterback was really good, so we had to watch for him.”
GM did a number on KCC’s big-play offense as it allowed just 47 yards rushing and only three passing plays of 20 yards or more. The Larks also kept KCC quarterback Drew Olsonawksi on the run as they sacked him three times and hurried him many more.
GM head coach Gary Sloan was mostly worried about KCC speedsters Fernando Blanco and Nick Kasprowicz, but the Larks held the duo to just 35 yards rushing on nine carries and 167 receiving yards on 10 catches. Blanco finally put KCC on the board when he broke free for a 49-yard TD catch with 4:52 left in the game, but the Bearcats never got the ball back after that.
“We talked about surrounding [Blanco] and [Kasprowicz] and not letting those guys get out in space,” Sloan said. “I thought we did a good job of that.”
The GM defense made a huge play in KCC’s second possession of the game when they stopped Olsonawski on a fourth and one from KCC’s own 29 yard line. The Larks responded by taking a 7-0 lead on a 3-yard TD run by Landon Jacobson.
As good as GM’s defense was, Olsonawksi still found ways to make some plays. He bailed KCC out of a third and 29 near the end of the first half when he found Blanco for a 32-yard gain over the top of a pair of GM defenders, but that drive stalled when Olsonawksi’s deep pass went out of the end zone as time expired in the first half.
Olsonawksi ran for 33 yards and completed 15 of his 27 passes for 216 yards.
“That’s a very good quarterback. He’s probably the best quarterback we’ve played against all year. He’s very athletic and he’s got a very good arm,” GM senior lineman Isaac Tangen said. “We worked really hard and the coaches prepared us really well for what they did. We knew how fast they were and they showed us how fast they were.”
GM will now have to wait two weeks before it plays in the Nine-Man football state title game. GM will play Underwood (10-3 overall) Nov. 29 at 10 a.m. at Mall of America Field.
“It’s going to be really tough to wait,” Benson said. “Now we’ve got morning practices for another week. But that’s just how it goes.”
Michael Stejskal led GM with 11 tackles, and he also had a sack.