Knights fall to ranked team in football home opener

Kingsland’s Brady Musel brings down a St. Clair player as Lucas Howard is ready to help. CHRISTINE VREEMAN/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
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The Kingsland Knights dropped their second-straight football game to start the season, falling to St. Clair/Loyola in a non-district matchup on Friday night 50-7. The Knights are 0-2 on the season (0-1 in district play) after an unsuccessful home opener against a very good Spartan (2-0) team.

Despite the final score, Kingsland coach Brent Stinson said the team has shown flashes of good football. It’s a just a matter of putting a complete-game, four-quarter effort together.

“At times, Friday night was rough,” he said. “At other times in the game, we were playing well. For us, it’s all about consistency, accountability, and playing that way for four quarters. You can’t just play 1.5 or two quarters every night, especially against a good team.

“They (St. Clair/Loyola) were ranked at number 15 in the Class 2A poll going into our game last week,” he added. “They beat Lester Prairie 39-17 in their first game. They merged with Mankato Loyola this year and got some very good players from that school. The Spartans were good at what they do, and we didn’t play assignment football at key times on defense.”

The Knights couldn’t get anything going offensively, finishing with just 67 total yards (40 plays) in the game to 394 (58 plays) for the Spartans. St. Clair/Loyola played ground-and-pound, with 319 of those total yards coming on the ground. The Knights finished with 27 yards rushing and Stinson said the offensive line is still looking to come together and play as a unit.

“We’re still working to fix some protection issues up front,” he said, “and identifying what we’re seeing from other teams along the line. The first two teams we’ve faced did a lot of similar things on the line that gave us fits.

“We also had some of their drives start inside our own 30-yard line,” he added. “There were times when we’d get the Spartans into a third-and-long, down-and-distance situation like we wanted, we just couldn’t get them off the field.”

One of the Knights’ two turnovers led directly to points as Spartan junior lineman Kahlan Benning jumped on a Kingsland fumble deep in Knights’ territory and returned it two yards for a touchdown.

Kingsland sophomore William Jahn completed five of 14 passes for 36 yards and one touchdown. Nick Ramaker was three for five passing for four yards while leading the team in rushing with 19 yards on eight carries. Zach Hauser had two catches for 18 yards and Reid Kruegel one for five yards and the lone TD reception.

Senior running back Noah Shruin led the Spartans on the ground with 16 carries for 138 yards and a TD. Junior QB Ben Ellingworth attempted just five passes all night, completing two for 75 yards and one touchdown.

“We came out and played a nice first quarter,” Stinson added. “There were just a few breakdowns and miscommunications that turned the game. The good news is, these are fixable errors. We’ve got some good things going, we just need to keep reinforcing and building.”

The Knights play their second straight home game this Friday night, Sept. 14, with a district matchup against Southland. Stinson said the Rebels are known for playing a physical brand of football and the Knights have to be ready for it.

“(Coach) Shawn (Kennedy) gets everything he can out of those guys,” he said. “They’ve had some success. Like us, their numbers have been up and down lately, but no matter what they have, this is a big rivalry for us. They always play hard against us and we’ll have to play a clean game to be successful on Homecoming.”

Kickoff for Kingsland’s Homecoming game Friday is at 7 p.m.