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Football: Turnovers haunt Osakis against a big-play offense for Lakers

Minnewaska's Jackson Johnsrud (6) celebrates his touchdown catch in the first quarter with teammate Ryan Christianson during Friday's 48-13 win over Osakis. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)1 / 3
Osakis sophomore running back Luke Imdieke tries to hold off Minnewaska's sophomore linebacker Grant Jensen during Friday's game at Minnewaska Area High School. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)2 / 3
Osakis junior Jacob Backes waits for the ball near the goal line while Minnewaska's Grant Jensen closes in on him. Backes made the catch that set up the Silverstreaks' first touchdown of the night on a Jonathan Lara run from the 1-yard line. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)3 / 3

Osakis football has a young team this year that needs to play clean in all phases to give itself a chance to win, and it didn’t happen on Friday night.

That spelled doom against a good Minnewaska team.

Osakis had four turnovers in the first half against the now 5-2 Lakers. One set up Minnewaska at the Osakis 12-yard line and led to an 11-yard touchdown pass from Matt Gruber to Jackson Johnsrud. Another came on a fumble that went up in the air and right into the arms of Ryan Amundson for a 67-yard touchdown return.

Those big plays kept coming all night for the Lakers as they won 48-13 to hand Osakis (2-5) its fourth straight loss.

“We needed to play a clean game, and that’s been the story for us the last four weeks,” Osakis head coach Bill Infanger said. “Previous weeks, we’ve been in tough, physical games and made that mistake in big moments. Tonight, we didn’t make one or two mistakes, we made a bunch of them. The turnovers in the first half were the difference. That takes the wind out of a young football team’s sails.”

The Lakers were ready to get back on the field after a disappointing loss at Sauk Centre last week. The Mainstreeters edged Minnewaska by one point after a blocked kick came after the Lakers’ final touchdown.

“We had that competitive nature back tonight,” Minnewaska head coach Jeremy Christensen said. “Last week, we went to Sauk and we were flat. We kind of got off the bus and weren’t our normal selves. Tonight, we had that attitude of wanting to get after it and get something done. They were hungry, and they played very well.”

It was a 35-0 Lakers’ lead by the half. Senior Garrett Jensen had a touchdown run of 40 yards in the first quarter. An interception led to a Gruber 28-yard touchdown run before Gruber hit Jack Blevins on fourth down for a 7-yard touchdown pass late in the half.

Ryan Christianson broke free for a 62-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Jensen then put the finishing touches on things with a 58-yard touchdown run for his second score of the night.

“We just had to come together as a team and fix our mistakes,” Jensen said of bouncing back from the loss last week. “We put together a good week of practice. We cleaned up everything and we put together a great showing tonight.”

The Lakers have had a lot of solid showings this year after winning just two games in 2016.

“It’s a blast,” Jensen said. “We were all young last year. There were probably three players who had a varsity start before that. This year, we’re veterans who have played, and we have young kids stepping up. That’s huge. We came together, got in the weight room, and it’s paying off.”

Christensen was also in his first year as this program’s head coach a year ago. That means players who were already inexperienced on varsity had to learn a new system too.

“They had to think through things a lot more than they could just play,” Christensen said. “This year, they’ve got the mental side of things down, and they’re just out there using their athletic ability. We’re a very athletic team across the board.”

Christensen said he saw flashes of good things last year. Now the Lakers are putting that together on a much more consistent basis.

“It’s been awesome,” Christensen said. “Now we’re putting offensive series together with defensive series and then the scoreboard just explodes like that. It’s been very fun to watch.”

For the Silverstreaks, they hope to follow a similar path to what the Lakers have done. Infanger knew this would be a young team this season, but he believes in the guys in the program. It just might take some time to get there.

“We need to just grow as football players,” Infanger said. “We need to get this experience and go through those situations. We need to learn how important it is to stick to our assignments when we’re playing an option team. Hanging onto the football.”

He doesn’t question the effort of his team. Osakis’ first of two touchdowns came in the third quarter when junior quarterback Jonathan Lara pushed the pile in from a yard out. That was set up by a 48-yard run by junior Jacob Backes and a big catch by Backes down to the 1-yard line on fourth down.

Then with both team’s junior varsity players getting some time to play, Osakis freshman Hunter Harlow scored on a two-yard run in the fourth quarter.

“I feel like our guys never quit tonight,” Infanger said. “We were able to get a lot of young guys experience because of injuries and because of the score in the second half. There were a lot of positives, but we need to play that clean football game and we’re just not there yet.”

Osakis will welcome in a Class AAA team in Montevideo next Wednesday, hoping to snap this losing streak before looking ahead to the playoffs.

Montevideo (1-6) beat Benson (0-7) on Friday for its first win of the season. The Lakers get that Benson team on the road in their regular-season finale on Wednesday. Minnewaska is a confident group right now, with Jensen mentioning getting to the state tournament as the goal on these players’ minds.

First things first, the Lakers have to take care of Benson in a rivalry game that could help secure a top two seed in the Section 5AA Tournament. Paynesville Area, Minnewaska, Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City and Sauk Centre are all 5-2 right now heading into the final week. 

“We have to take care of our business because of that playoff picture,” Christensen said. “We kind of control our own destiny, so we need to make sure we do at least what we can do and not worry about what happens with any other teams.”

OSAKIS               0 0 6 7 – 13

MINNEWASKA     7 28 13 0 - 48

SCORING – FIRST QUARTER – Minnewaska – Matt Gruber 11-yard pass to Jackson Johnsrud; Drew Nelson PAT

SECOND QUARTER – Minnewaska – Garrett Jensen 40-yard run; Nelson PAT; Minnewaska – Ryan Amundson 67-yard fumble return; Nelson PAT; Minnewaska – Gruber 28-yard run; Nelson PAT; Minnewaska – Gruber 7-yard pass to Jack Blevins; Nelson PAT

THIRD QUARTER – Minnewaska – Ryan Christianson 62-yard run; PAT no good; Osakis – Jon Lara 1-yard run; PAT no good; Minnewaska – Jensen 58-yard run; Nelson PAT

FOURTH QUARTER - Osakis – Hunter Harlow 2-yard run; Reid DeWenter PAT

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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