Crookston's defense shutout Staples-Motley for their first win of the season.
The Crookston Pirates saw noticeable improvements on both sides of the ball, Leyton Salentine (Jr. QB) rushed for two touchdowns and Jaden Lubarski (Sr. WR/S) added two interceptions in the 20-0 win over the Staples-Motley Cardinals.
"We did a better job of preparing this week," Head Coach Scott Butt said on his team's strides. "I think we believed in ourselves which was huge. We played a team that's a lot like us. We were able to get on top of them right away. Our kids got off the ball hard and that was nice to see."
The Pirates (1-1) moved the ball right away when Salentine converted a 3rd and 9 by rushing for 15 yards. A few plays later, Salentine used his arm to heave a 41-yard pass to Jaden Lubarski putting the Pirates in the red zone. Two plays later, Salentine ran up the middle and gave Crookston their first lead of the season with a five-yard touchdown run.
On the ensuing drive, Staples-Motley saw a chance to knot up the score, but a bomb to the goal line fell incomplete with Zach Brown (So. DB) on the coverage. The Cardinals recovered by converting on a fourth down, but erased the success when Lubarski picked off a pass at the Pirates four-yard line.
"He's been a rockstar," Butt said on Lubarski's performance. "He's playing with so much confidence. Everything he's doing, he's doing with confidence and that's huge. We couldn't be happier for him. Great kid, paid his dues and he's doing everything we ask him to do and he's doing it well."
Fresh off the turnover, Salentine broke a few tackles, spun to his left and sprinted down the right sideline for an 88-yard touchdown, his second rushing score of the game. Staples-Motley blocked the point-after attempt, but Crookston had gained a 13-0 lead with 10:55 to play in the second quarter.
"Leyton had a lot more time and we were crisping up our routs in practice so we were a little more open and I think that led to a lot of [success]," Lubarski said regarding the Pirates' offense.
The Pirates scored twice less than three minutes apart, but the Cardinals managed to slow down the Crookston offense for the rest of the first half. Damian Hodgson (Sr. DL) recorded a sack on a fourth down attempt to keep the Cardinals off the board and gave the Pirates their second defensive turnover of the game. In the remaining minutes of the first half, the Pirates blocked a punt and Lubarski tallied his second interception of the game, but the offense could not put together a drive and went into halftime leading 13-0.
Crookston surrendered 36 points to East Grand Forks in the season-opener and Lubarski attributed the shutout to the defensive linemen.
"We put more guys on the line and we just allowed them to go," Lubarski said. "They played with a little more intensity and a little more urge to get back there and I think that was huge."
The Cardinals took the opening kick-off in the second half and proceeded to punt it away. Salentine converted a 4th and 1 setting up Joey Doda (Jr. RB) for a 14-yard touchdown run just inside the pylon. Blake Fee (Sr. TE/DE/K) put the ball through the uprights and the Pirates boasted a 20-0 lead with 6:26 to go in the third quarter.
Although his team scored less points than they did against the Green Wave, 28, Butt commended his offense's ability to take advantage of the Cardinals' defense.
"The way [Staples-Motley] played their defense, we were able to get to some one-on-one routes," Butt said. "We were able to get their safety to move. They tried to cover our trips, they overloaded and we were able to get in behind them and that was the big thing."
Each defense held the opposing offense scoreless from that point on, but the act favored the Pirates more as Crookston closed out a 20-0 win.
Crookston stays home next week when they welcome Hawley on Friday, September 14 at 7 p.m.
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