By Stephen Wiblemo
MINNEAPOLIS - Defense might win championships, but scoring points are also a requirement.
Photo by Stephen Wiblemo, Hutchinson Leader
Minneota/Lincoln HI?running back Jeff Gladis (24) attempts to cross the goal but is tackled short of it by Chatfield’s Jayme LaPlante (40) and Ian Morrison (72) during the MSHSL Class 2A Prep Bowl on Friday at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.
On Friday in the MSHSL Class 2A Prep Bowl at the Metrodome, the Minneota/Lincoln HI football team couldn't get enough points in its 17-7 loss to Chatfield.
The Vikings' defense was stout in their sixth state championship appearance and first in Class 2A, allowing just 246 total yards of offense and only seven points in the first three quarters.
Minneota/Lincoln HI's offense couldn't do much either, however, as it was held to just 62 yards on the ground and 266 total. The Vikings didn't score until the final seconds of the game after the Gophers had already secured the victory.
"We did some good things against them, defensively, and they did some good things against us," Minneota head coach Chad Johnston said. "They did a good job of controlling our running game, and it was a great defensive battle to the end. We played hard but, without putting some points on the board, that took away some of our momentum."
Minneota/Lincoln HI didn't help itself, either, as it turned the ball over three times. The defense was usually able to get the ball back, but those giveaways were drive-killers.
"You can't afford to make those mistakes. Good teams are going to capitalize on them," Johnston said. "As much as we were struggling offensively, we needed those possessions."
While its offense struggled early-on, Minneota/Lincoln HI's defense kept the Vikings in the game with crucial stops.
Chatfield drove down to the Vikings' 30-yard line on its first possession, but a big sack from Jordan Beck on fourth-and-three turned the Gophers over on downs.
Minneota/Lincoln HI gave the ball right back three plays later with a lost fumble, but the Vikings' defense stepped up again with a stop at its 17-yard line, where Chatfield's field goal attempt was no good.
Minneota/Lincoln HI managed to put together its first extended drive of the game on its third possession, going 40 yards on 10 plays until a pass from quarterback Austin Buysse, intended for Nicholas Esping, was picked off by Chatfield's Jacob Neis.
Neis had both interceptions and led the Gophers with 110 rushing yards on 24 carries.
That pick did not lead to the first touchdown of the game, though, and after exchanging punts and pinning Chatfield on its own 2-yard line, Esping returned the favor with an interception to give Minneota/Lincoln HI great field position on the Gophers' 29-yard line.
The Vikings couldn't make use of the opportunity, though, and finished the possession with a pair of sacks that put them out of field goal range.
When Chatfield got the ball back, it was finally able to get down the field and score in the final minute of the half.
The Gophers used the old hook-and-ladder play for a 21-yard pick up, and then Neis broke of a 26-yard run to put the ball on the goal line and score the next play.
Although they went into the halftime trailing, Minneota wasn't worried yet.
"We've been down before at halftime, and we've played some of our best football in the second half," Johnston said. "We stayed positive and sharp, and the key was to come out right away and get a stop."
The Vikings got the stop they needed, but their offense continued to languish and the two teams exchanged punts.
On its second possession of the second half, Minneota/Lincoln HI put together its longest and most-promising drive of the day. Starting at its own 13-yard line, the Vikings went 86 yards in 13 plays, the biggest of which was a 57-yard completion from Austin Buysse to Nathan Pavek.
The drive carried over into the fourth quarter and put the Vikings on Chatfield's 1-yard line with two chances to punch it in, but the Gophers held the line and stopped Buysse on the QB keeper to turn the ball over on downs.
Adding insult to injury, Chatfield took over inside its own 1-yard line and marched 97 yards on 13 plays. Minneota/Lincoln HI finally got the stop at its own 2-yard line, but the Gophers kicked the field goal to go up 10-0 with 5:13 on the clock.
"That was the second time we should have came out of drives with points," Johnston said. "Two of their big touchdowns were answers by them after getting some big defensive stops. It (took the momentum)."
Minneota/Lincoln HI still had a chance if it could score quickly, but Neis put an end to that with his second interception two plays into the drive at the Vikings' 19-yard line.
Chatfield ran off more time and was able to punch in its final touchdown to give itself a three-score lead.
The Vikings battled to the end, using their final possession to drive 80 yards on 10 plays. It was finished with a 24-yard touchdown pass from Buysse to Gladis, but it was too little too late.
Chatfield kneeled out the final seconds to earn its fourth state title in school history.
"Nothing you say at this point makes the kids feel better. It will take awhile for it all to settle in, but I'm proud," Johnston said of his team at the end of the season. "We've done a lot of things extremely well this year. They came together as a team, battled adversity and put themselves in the state finals. That's a big feat for them."
At the Metrodome, Minneapolis
MSHSL?CLASS 2A FOOTBALL
STATE TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONSHIP
Minneota/Lincoln HI 7
C - Jacob Neis 1 run (Nate Skare kick good) 0:50.
C - Skare 19 field goal, 5:13.
C - Skare 3 run (Skare kick good) 2:08.
M/LHI - Jeff Gladis 16 pass from Austin Buysse (Simon Ankersen kick good) :06.
Rushing YARDS - Minneota: 28-62; Chatfield: 44-178
Passing yards - Minneota: 20-204; Chatfield: 2-68
Total offense - Minneota: 61-266; Chatfield: 51-256
First Downs - Minneota: 18; Chatfield: 11
Penalties - Minneota: 1-5; Chatfield: 2-30
RUSHING - Minneota: Gladis 16-53, Nathan Pavek 7-22, Alec Engler 2-7, Austin Buysse 3-(-20); Chatfield: Neis 24-105, Alex Bradt 16-69, Jayme LaPlante 1-5, Skare 3-(-1).
PASSING - Minneota: Austin Buysse 20-33-204-1-2; Chatfield: Skare 2-7-68-0-1.
RECEIVING - Minneota: Engler 9-49, Pavek 5-98, Beck 3-25, Nicholas Esping 2-16, Gladis 1-16; Chatfield: Drew Hurley 2-51, Neis 0-17.
TACKLES - Minneota: Daniel Harrison 9, Pavek 9, Garrett Hennen 7, Andrew Behnke 6, Cole Hennen 6, Alec Engler 5; Chatfield: Hurley 9, Carter Duxbury 7, Alex Haffner 5.
SACKS - Minneota: Beck 1; Chatfield: Dalton Schwier 1, Han Friederichs 1, Jayme LaPlante 1.
INTERCEPTIONS - Minneota: Esping 1; Chatfield: Neis 2.
FUMBLES RECOVERED - Chatfield: LaPlante.