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New Life Academy football: Eagles fall to East-leading Aggies at Midway Stadium

New Life Academy senior running back Andrew Nieuwsma looks for a hole in the defense in the Eagles’ 14-7 loss to St. Agnes at Midway Stadium in St. Paul on Friday. (Bulletin photo by Matthew Davis)

New Life Academy sophomore tailback Eby Ketema returned to playing organized football this season for the first time since the eighth grade.

“I just wanted to get back into it,” Ketema said.

He has had many firsts in his first varsity season as a starter, but the first in the Eagles’ most recent outing may have come as the most unique. The Eagles got to play at Midway Stadium in Saint Paul, home to the minor league Saint Paul Saints baseball team on a rain-soaked Friday night.

“I’ve never played anywhere like it,” Ketema said.

The Eagles (1-5, 1-5 Tri-Metro East) came up short in their monsters-of-the-Midway clash against first-place Saint Agnes (5-1, 3-1 TME) in a 14-7 loss. A failed red zone offensive drive by the Eagles in the second half and a recovered onside kick proved to be the difference as the Aggies won their homecoming game.

“It’s not cancer, it’s a game,” Eagles coach Paul Mork said. “We didn’t play well enough to win.”

Eagles quarterback Seth Rice punched in the lone score of the game for the Eagles with time waning in the fourth quarter. They went for the onside kick and recovered it, but the ball did not travel the full required 10 yards, and the ball did not bounce their way on the re-kick. 

Missed opportunities, turnovers and penalties again plagued the Eagles as they trailed 7-0 for most of the first three quarters. Rice engineered one drive in the second half that took the Eagles inside the Aggies’ red zone, but the Eagles came away scoreless as Aggies linebacker Seamus Ryan picked off a pass.

“We were moving the ball fine downfield, but when we got close, we couldn’t score,” Rice said.

The Eagles defense had one of their stronger nights of the season as they stuffed the Aggies rushing game, allowing 70 yards. The Aggies came in averaging 218 yards per game.

“Our defense did what they were supposed to do,” Rice said. “Our offense now needs to get the job done.”

The Aggies celebrated their 125th year and homecoming with the win. They once played at the Midway Stadium site before the Saints began playing minor league ball there.

Despite dropping to 1-5 overall, the Eagles still have plenty to play for. The Eagles play two of the bottom dwellers in the Tri-Metro East for their final regular season games. This coming Friday brings Brooklyn Center (2-4, 1-4 TME) to Seam Foam Stadium for the Eagles. 

The lone wins for the Centaurs came against Saint Anthony Village (1-5, 0-4 TME) and Spectrum (1-5) of Class AA. The Eagles will have SAV the following week.

“The next two games are winnable for us,” Rice said.

Improving seeding prospects in Section 4AAAA could be in the cards with a pair of wins. Hill-Murray, North Branch and Saint Paul Harding all sit at 2-4. Moving ahead of several if not all of those teams could come as a most welcome turn of events. The bottom-seeded team will most likely face an unbeaten South Saint Paul (6-0) squad. The Eagles faced the Packers last year in sections with a 43-0 loss.

—Matthew Davis