Maple Grove senior Aaron Germain fielded the opening kickoff Friday night at his own 20-yard line, found his way to the sideline and sprinted untouched into the end zone for a touchdown.
The game was all of 11 seconds old.
It was just one of several big plays by the senior quarterback/defensive back.
While teammate Mike Burns (58) looks to throw a block, Maple Grove quarterback Aaron Germain looks for some running room during Friday night’s Class D football game. The Red Dragons defeated rival Randolph, 27-14. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Scott Kindberg
As it turned out, the Red Dragons needed just about all of them.
Sparked by four first-half touchdowns - three of which Germain was directly responsible - Maple Grove, the state's second-ranked team, raced to a 27-0 lead and then held on to down No. 16 Randolph, 27-14, in a Class D football game on the Dutch Hollow Road.
The win, which improves the Red Dragons' record to 3-0 in the division, didn't come without cost, however, as talented senior running back Oliver Simpson left the game in the third quarter with an injury that could keep him out of action for an extended period, according to Coach Curt Fischer.
But in a renewal of one of the state's fiercest rivalries, Fischer chose to concentrate on the play of Germain, who turned in a brilliant game that was jump-started by his kickoff return.
''I thought Aaron played a great game on both sides of the ball,'' Fischer said. ''He ran the ball well and he got his throwing back a little bit.''
All told, Germain rushed for 70 yards on 12 carries; completed 8-of-12 passes for 142 yards, including touchdown tosses of 35 and 42 yards to Simpson and Jason Seiberg respectively; and he intercepted a pass. Much of that versatility was on display in the first half when the Red Dragons seemed to have blown the game open.
After Germain's kickoff return, they scored touchdowns on three of their five first-half possessions. The first offensive touchdown came when Germain hooked up with Simpson for a 35-yard catch and run, while the second was the result of an 18-yard Simpson burst that staked Maple Grove to a 20-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
Germain capped the half when he threw long for Jeff Tampe, but the ball was tipped as two Randolph defenders ran into each other and Seiberg came down with it and raced into the end zone to complete a 42-yard scoring play with just 33.6 seconds remaining before intermission.
Erik Olson tacked on the extra-point try and the hosts went to the locker room with a healthy, 27-0, lead.
''The first half was just a total disaster,'' Randolph coach Pat Slater said.
The second half was an entirely different story.
Cardinals senior Jordan Dowiasz fielded the second-half kickoff at his 14 and raced 86 yards for a touchdown. Micah Kehoe booted the first of his two extra points and Randolph (1-2) had regained some momentum even though it had yet to run an offensive or defensive play.
''The kids turned it up, they showed some character, we came back and we played good in the second half,'' Slater said.
When Maple Grove was forced to punt on its subsequent series, Dowiasz raced 55 yards on the Cardinals' first play, setting up the visitors with a first down at the Red Dragons' 18. But Maple Grove immediately stripped the ball from Jared Pitchford and Dalton Bolles recovered, thwarting a golden Randolph scoring opportunity.
It wouldn't be the last time the Cardinals came up empty deep in Maple Grove territory.
With Simpson on the sideline with an injury, the Red Dragons had trouble moving the ball consistently and were forced to punt. Aided by a pair of Mitchell Maycock-to-Alex Miinte passes totaling 40 yards, Randolph drove inside the Maple Grove 5-yard line. But on fourth-and-goal from the 1, the Red Dragons stopped Dowiasz for no gain and took over possession on downs. The Cardinals' faithful argued that Dowiasz, who after the play was blown dead spun off a pile of humanity and into the end zone, had not been wrapped up, but the call stood.
Randolph's final touchdown came midway through the fourth quarter when Maycock connected with Dowiasz for a 6-yard pass on fourth down. The Cardinals' last possesion ended when Maycock was intercepted by Tampe for the second time with less than a minute remaining.
Slater was still lamenting the missed opportunities after the game.
''Those are the ones you're disappointed about,'' he said. ''You can't get down to the one-foot line and not put the ball in the end zone.''
Fischer said he was proud of the way his team played in the ''tougher times.''
''The goal-line stand was really big,'' he said. '' ... When we lost Oliver we kind of got shellshocked and didn't really have the position filled quite the way we wanted to, but we'll get that.
''Our kids made big plays when they had to. ... I'm just really proud of them.''
NOTES: Before his injury, Simpson rushed for 57 yards on seven carries. ... Bolles led the Red Dragons with 12 tackles, while Tampe had nine to go along with his two interceptions. ... Dowiasz rushed for 96 yards on 12 carries, Maycock completed 8-of-19 passes for 107 yards and Nathan Beaver completed 2-of-3 passes for 67 yards. ... Cody Oldro had 12 tackles, Dylan Faust eight and Beaver seven for Randolph, which accumulated 281 yards in total offense. ... Fischer welcomed the return of senior Jon Scroxton, who missed the first two games with pancreatitis that landed him in a Buffalo hospital for a week in late August. He was cleared to play on Tuesday and started at right guard on offense and right tackle on defense. ''He's got the heart of a lion,'' Fischer said.
Maple Grove14 13 0 0 - 27
Randolph0 0 7 7 - 14
MG-Germain 80 kickoff return (kick fail)
MG-Simpson 35 pass from Germain (Simpson run)
MG-Simpson 18 run (kick fail)
MG-Seiberg 42 pass from Germain (Olson kick)
Ran-Dowiasz 86 kick return (Kehoe kick)
Ran-Dowiasz 6 pass from Maycock (Kehoe kick)