Football: Wingers win season openerAs one of the few returning starters, senior wide receiver Andre Page came into this season as Red Wing’s biggest offensive weapon. Friday night, he delivered.
By: Chris Harrell, The Republican Eagle
As one of the few returning starters, senior wide receiver Andre Page came into this season as Red Wing’s biggest offensive weapon.
Friday night, he delivered.
Page acted like a pinball, bouncing off defenders all night on his way to 196 yards of offense — 54 rushing and 142 receiving — and two touchdowns as the Wingers defeated Austin 35-22 in Red Wing to open the season.
“That’s our offense,” Red Wing coach Matt Schultz said of Page’s night. “It makes the game. Because he has that explosion, you have to honor it, whether or not he has the ball.”
Red Wing’s 35 points were its most in the regular season since putting up 52 against St. Paul Harding in the first week of the 2006 season.
During practice Thursday, Shultz pulled Page aside to pump up his playmaker and it paid off.
“He told me there’s no one on that defense that can run with me,” Page said. “And it happened tonight. I’m just doing exactly what my coach told me to do.”
The Wingers showed a quick-strike attack in handing Austin its 20th consecutive loss despite breaking in a new quarterback for the first time in three years, senior Ricky Turcotte. Red Wing finished with 373 yards of offense, 198 rushing and 175 passing.
“For us to be successful, we have to be balanced,” Schultz said.
Turcotte was 12 of 18 for 153 yards and two touchdowns but did lose two fumbles in the first half that led to 14 points.
“There were senior year jitters but we definitely recovered,” Turcotte said. “It’s definitely a learning experience to see what we can overcome.”
His first fumble at 6 minutes, 20 seconds of the first quarter led to the first points of the game as Austin scored on the next possession, an 8-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Stoulil. The extra point missed as Austin took a 6-0 lead.
Stoulil finished with five catches for 86 yards.
Turcotte lost a fumble again on Austin’s 2-yard line with 11:55 remaining in the second quarter but junior Thate Peterson helped Red Wing strike back with an interception return for a touchdown on Austin’s ensuing possession.
“That was the momentum shift,” Page said. “It’s nice to come out with an inexperienced defense and watch them step up.”
The defense held Austin to 2.69 yards per carry and a 51.4 completion percentage.
After the defensive touchdown, Page started to heat up. He caught an 18-yard touchdown pass with just more than eight minutes remaining in the half to put Red Wing up 14-6 and scored again on an 8-yard run with 3:05 left before halftime to give the Wingers a 21-6 lead.
Schultz said he kept Page silent for the first few possessions in order to get inexperienced players comfortable.
“(Page) is our veteran,” Schultz said. “He’s going to get his yards. We wanted to get other guys comfortable. If you don’t make them comfortable, they won’t be in the second half.”
Austin appeared to steal back momentum with a passing touchdown to Bret Lukes on an untimed play to end the first half. Red Wing led 21-14 after the two-point conversion was successful.
The third quarter was scoreless before senior Andrew Kalb caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from Turcotte that was batted into his arms by the defensive back. The Wingers took a 28-14 lead after the extra point by Gunnar Tubbs.
“It’s fate, it’s going to go our way,” Schultz said of Kalb’s touchdown catch. “For almost three years I watched those plays happen to us.”
Junior Isaac Toivonen came in to play quarterback with roughly eight minutes remaining and scored Red Wing’s final touchdown on a 6-yard run to put the score out of reach at 35-14 with the extra point by Tubbs. Tubbs finished 5-for-5 on extra points.
Austin found the end zone with 29 seconds remaining on an 8-yard touchdown pass to Gabe Kasak and the two-point conversion was successful to Kasak.
It was an impressive start for Red Wing, which will need an even better performance next week at home against Shakopee.
“I knew if everyone did their job, we’d perform pretty well,” Turcotte said.