Republic County made them work for it, but Minneapolis eventually prevailed in a 27-8 victory to open up 2019.
Minneapolis welcomed its new head coach, Tom Flax, on Friday while also entertaining Republic County who came in to this season on a 19-game losing streak.
It didn’t appear like the Buffaloes had struggled in recent years as they gave Minneapolis issues for the majority of the night.
After a scoreless first quarter, The Lions put together a scoring drive in the first minute of the second, capped off by a four yard touchdown run by Crew Martin. Minneapolis missed the PAT and led 6-0 at the 11:24 mark.
Republic County didn’t back down. The Buffs launched a seven-plus minute drive behind its fullback, Jared Baxa, pounding his way to three or four yard gains each carry. Baxa finished the drive with an eight yard touchdown run, midway through the period. After the two-point attempt, Republic County led 8-6.
After Minneapolis threw an interception, Republic County again took over deep in Minneapolis territory. This time, the Buffs went to the air and suffered a crucial turnover; as Minneapolis cornerback, John Nelson, picked off Cody Dahl at the one yard line of Minneapolis.
The Lions had 99 yards in front of them and just three minutes to find the end zone. That’s when Lions’ quarterback, Derek Freel put together a fantastic drive hitting receiver Kaden Griffen for completions of 39 and 13. Freel then found Jonah Ausherman on a 29 yard touchdown pass with three-seconds before halftime to give the Lions the lead back.
Minneapolis then tacked on the two-point conversion to hold a 14-8 halftime lead.
After a scoreless third quarter, it looked to be headed to a close finish at Minneapolis High School. However, the Minneapolis defense stopped Republic County on four downs deep in Lion territory early in the fourth.
With the ball and needing to land a knockout blow, Freel found Griffen again. This time for 62 yards and a touchdown to make it 21-8 with 10:51 to go.
Minneapolis tacked on another touchdown late, as Martin rushed in for his second score on the night, this time, from 23 yards out.
Republic County (0-1, 0-1 NCAA) dropped its 20th consecutive game. The Buffaloes hung tough but ran out of gas towards the end of the game.
Minneapolis (1-0, 1-0 NCAA) opens up its season with a win for the third-straight year. Freel led the Lions going 11-18 passing for 216 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, unofficially.
Griffen led the way receiving with four receptions for 130 yards and a touchdown. Daniel Watson had 78 yards rushing.
Minneapolis travels to Salina next week to take on rival, Sacred Heart. Countdown to Kickoff starts at 6:45 p.m. with kickoff of the Lions and Knights at 7 p.m. The game will be simulcast on two Rocking M Media Salina radio stations: 92.7 The New Zoo and FM 104.9.