Leyton Salentine threw and rushed for a touchdown in the loss. Lukas Meier recovered two fumbles on defense.
The Crookston Pirates opened their 2018 season to a rough start against the East Grand Forks Green Wave. East Side kicked off their season by using a bruising running game to score 36 in the first half en route to a 49-28 win.
“Physically, they were just so much bigger and stronger than us,” Head Coach Scott Butt said. “Up front they were much bigger and they mauled us. We had trouble with that and we didn’t wrap up. We had blitzes come clean and we flew off when we made the tackle. We got to do a better job of tackling and we got to make sure we stay in the weight room.”
Crookston started the game with a turnover on downs and in the blink of an eye, the Green Wave moved down the field to score the first touchdown of the game via a run. A two point conversion later and East Grand Forks led 8-0.
Things did not get better for the Pirates. Crookston fumbled the ensuing kickoff which East Side recovered and the Green Wave marched down the field capping off the drive with a pitch for a 15-0 lead.
After the quick gut punch, Crookston found consistency on offense with the ball in the air. Junior QB Leyton Salentine found senior RB Lukas Meier for a third down conversion and later, Salentine used his legs to reach the first down marker on a 4th and 3.
Salentine and the Pirates reached the red zone where Salentine proceeded to throw across the middle of the field to junior WR Ty Hamre and Hamre muscled his way across the final two yards for the touchdown. A successful PAT made the score 15-8 with 10 seconds to play in the first quarter.
“I thought we blocked up front and our kids did a really good job of blocking,” Butt said. “We were able to really stretch some things out and get them spread out across the field. Their blitzes weren’t getting home so it made it a lot easier to throw the ball that series.”
Each team followed with a three and out putting the ball back in the hands of the Green Wave. East Side stayed consistent keeping the ball on the ground and breaking tackles which led to their third rushing touchdown of the game with 6:22 remaining in the half.
Now leading 22-8, East Grand Forks forced their second straight three and out, blocked the punt, scooped up the football and took it to the house for a 29-8 lead.
The Pirates managed to snag a first down on their next drive, but EGF ultimately held them to a punt. With 45 seconds to go in the half, East Side punched it in for their fourth rushing touchdown of the game and led 36-8 at half.
Halftime did not provide any momentum swings. After running the opening kick off for a touchdown, East Grand Forks busted loose for a 90-yard touchdown run to increase their lead to 49-8.
Crookston made noteworthy plays in the second half to put a spark in the sideline including a 26-yard touchdown run by Salentine and Senior TE Blake Fee also ran through numerous tackles to convert on a two-point attempt to make the score 49-16.
The defense for Crookston also stepped up recovering three fumbles, two of them by Meier. After missing the entirety of the 2017 season due to injury, Meier's performance earned praise from his coach.
“I thought it was awesome because he’s a guy who doesn’t quit,” Butt said. “We knew he wouldn’t quit. We played him a lot this game because he missed all of last year. I thought he played a whale of a game.”
Junior RB Joey Doda got in on the offensive action with a two-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to bring Crookston closer now down 49-22.
Freshman RB Brady Wisk also tallied a rushing touchdown with 2:19 remaining in the game. Crookston came within 21 points down 49-28, but could get no closer.
Although Crookston found success in the ground in the second half, the majority of yards gained came against backups leaving Butt wondering if he will need to pass more in future games.
“I don’t know yet because we got to watch the film, but we have to get good up front,” Butt said. “I think we can be a good unit up front. It’s just we got a couple of guys who are new and they’re playing next to each other so we got to get them straightened out and I think we’ll be able to run the ball better.”
The Pirates fall to 0-1 and will host Staples-Motley for their home-opener on Friday, September 7. Kick-off is set for 7 p.m.