Hastings opens season with win
The fall got off to a great start Thursday night in very hot conditions as the Hastings boys football team opened its season against Forest Lake with a 20-9 win.
Hastings took a 7-0 lead into halftime then scored just five minutes into the second half to take a 14-0 lead.
Forest Lake, though, trimmed the lead to 14-6 heading into the fourth quarter. The Rangers then added a field goal to pull within 14-9. Hastings got the ball back, though, and went on a 10-play 70-yard drive that ended on a 29-yard touchdown run by Brandon McCarthy. That score sealed the victory.
"That was a great way to finish a game," Strain said. "We did a lot of good things. It wasn't perfect, but we did a lot of good things that will carry over throughout the season. We had some mistakes that we'll see on film and they're correctable. We'll get better from that."
Strain was happy to see his team bounce back after letting the Rangers back in the game.
"It's a credit to our kids – they hung in there," he said. "Nobody panicked and we found a way to get a win. We're excited about it."
"I thought we had a great effort across the board," he said. "There were a lot of positives in that respect. The kids were enthusiastic and celebrated together. There were a lot of positives."
Hastings finished with 248 yards of rushing, including 148 by McCarthy on just 18 carries. He scored two touchdowns. He is the Hastings quarterback.
"We'll have it in his hands a lot," Strain said. "We'll let him make things happen. We did a great job up front blocking for him. Our offensive line had a really strong game for their first night out."
Keeping McCarthy healthy this year won't be easy with the ball in his hands as often as it is. He's already nursing an ankle injury, Strain said, but he should be ready for Friday's game.
Through the air, Hastings struggled to move the ball. McCarthy attempted nine passes and completed two for 19 yards.
"That's an area we'll get better at," Strain said. "Brandon grew up as a runningback. We converted him as a sophomore and he's gotten to the point where he looks pretty good. He'll get better at throwing. It'll just take a couple more completions to get him some confidence and him to settle down. We know we have to improve in the throwing game.
"If we can't throw, teams will just focus on the run, and specifically the quarterback run. That'll make it more challenging. We know we have a talented group of receivers."
Shane Anderson had a good day on the ground, carrying the ball 12 times and gaining 66 yards. He scored a touchdown, too.
The Hastings defense limited the Rangers to just 90 rushing yards on 33 carries. Through the air, the Rangers picked up just 113 yards.
Colin Shoen had a big interception in the first quarter deep inside Hastings' territory.
"That was huge to keep points off the board early," Strain said.
At the end of the game, Mike Junker had an interception to prevent the Rangers from getting any kind of a late-game heroics. It was his first varsity game.
"He's a dynamic playmaker who made a big play there for us," Strain said.
Strain said the Hastings defense had a number of big stops deep in their own territory.
On special teams, Hastings also had a good night. Jacob Cooper had a big return and Jonah Harrington converted two of three extra-point attempts on the night. He's a soccer player who is called on to be the placekicker.
"In just about every phase of the game, we had something we could be excited about and hang our hat on going forward," Strain said.
Hastings plays host to Cretin-Derham Hall on Friday night in the home opener for Hastings. Gametime is 7 p.m.
Cretin lost to Roseville last week, but don't take that to mean that C-DH is down.
They have the No. 1 prospect in the nation among juniors, Jason Cornell, a defensive end. Their running back, senior Blake Banham, is also a big-time prospect.
Hastings beat Cretin last year.
"Our kids will be excited for it," Strain said."They're a good team. We just have to go play our game and get better from week one to week two. We have to clean up those areas we saw on film -- we have to be better in the throwing game and we have to tackle a little bit better. If we do those things and go out and play our best game, I like our chances."