Wild weather can’t cool hot Spartan offense [UPDATED]Published 9:37am Tuesday, September 3, 2013 Updated 11:38am Tuesday, September 3, 2013
An hour delay nearly derailed a strong M State football outing on Saturday afternoon, but an opening-day showing by running backs Hayden Zenner and Shaquille Cole pushed the Spartans past the Mesabi Range Norseman at home, 34-12.
The Spartans opened the game with the ball and were as hot offensively as the late August weather. It scored on the first possession of the game, capping off a 76-yard drive with a 9-yard pass from quarterback Jarrod Mold to Paris Woods.
The Norseman were slow to start with their offense, but crossed into Spartan territory in the second quarter. A fumble, however, turned the ball over to the Spartans and started a 60-yard drive that would finish with an 8-yard touchdown run by Zenner, a Fergus Falls High School graduate fresh off an injury-filled freshman season.
Cole added to the Spartan lead with under a minute left in the half after a four-yard touchdown run. Kicker Cody Guevara put in the extra point for a 20-0 lead the Spartans took into the locker room for halftime.
The Norseman turned their first-half woes around at the start of the third quarter. Trevonte Brock found Isaiah Sims in the end zone for a four-yard touchdown pass that capped off a 74-yard, 14-play drive that took eight minutes and 37 seconds off the clock.
M State started the second half with a hitch, seeing several drives end before it could reach striking distance. The Spartans would break through again, however, with Cole’s second score of the game from three yards out.
Eyes turned to the sky as storm clouds gathered above the field in the fourth quarter. With 14:11 remaining in the game, officials sent fans and the two teams into the college building as a thunderstorm filled with hail, lightening and heavy rain threatened the area. The two teams returned to the field after an hour delay in play.
Mesabi Range used the break to recover and hit the field running after play resumed. Brock hit receiver Derrick Reynolds in stride for a 66-yard touchdown catch and run that rattled Spartan nerves as the Norseman brought the score to 27-12.
Rickey Clifton put the lid on the victory, however, after recovering a Mesabi fumble during a Spartan punt and running in for the score from 36 yards out.
The Spartan offense got the ball back and went on to run down the clock on Zenner’s legs, holding on for a 34-12 victory.
An impressive Spartan offense racked up its 34 points on 273 total yards, moving the ball with a combination of short passes and hard-nosed running by Zenner and Cole, who accounted for 117 and 71 or the Spartans’ 200 rushing yards, respectively. Cole found the end zone on the ground twice and Zenner had one rushing touchdown.
Sophomore Jarrod Mold managed the Spartan offense with a 10-13, 73 yard performance. He threw one touchdown on the day.
Willie Williams led Spartan receivers with 28 yards. Woods finished the game with 27 yards and one reception for a touchdown.
On the defensive side of the ball, Jordan Mold led the squad with eight tackles, while teammates Wedlin Berger, Cody Curry and Brock Sweere registered five a piece. Freshman corner and Fergus Falls graduate Drew Reinertson contributed four tackles as well.
The Spartans, looking to improve on a 2-6 season in 2012, start the season 1-0 and hope to have turned the corner after an impressive outing.
“To come out and be able to win justifies all the work they’ve put in,” head coach Steve King said after the game. “And it’s not just the win, but to play better and be a better team and have better discipline today. We haven’t started 1-0 in a while, and now we’re 1-0.”
The Spartans travel to Thief River Falls for a 1:30 kickoff on Saturday.