MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — When Minnesota high school football dynasties are mentioned, schools like Eden Prairie, Cretin-Derham Hall and Wayzata quickly come to mind.
But those big schools can’t compare to the success of Totino-Grace.
Tom Laventure ran for 140 yards and two touchdowns, and the Eagles continued their dominance of Class 4A with a 34-14 win over Rogers in Saturday’s championship game.
Ashford Kromah and Xavier Fust also scored for the Totino-Grace (12-1), which has won two straight titles and six of eight.
“The 4A field this year was really, really outstanding,” said coach Jeff Ferguson. “This was harder than maybe many people think it is. Nobody’s invincible and there’s no guarantees.”
Although Totino-Grace, a private school in Fridley, and Wayzata made it look that way at this year’s Prep Bowl. The Trojans beat Rosemount 31-14 Friday for their third Class 5A title in six years.
“I love the way our kids approach the playoffs,” Ferguson said. “They’re not playing on eggshells, they don’t have a lot of anxiety, they just put a smile on their face and play really, really well.”
Rogers coach Marc Franz said that confidence shows in big games.
“They don’t make mistakes, they don’t kill themselves,” he said. “They’re a good fundamental football team. They have it going.”
Laventure put the game out of reach on the first play of the second half, taking a handoff from Alex Krueser, cutting around right end and sprinting to a 59-yard score for a 28-7 lead.
Alex Meixell scored from 2 yards out for Rogers, but Laventure scored from 12 yards out for a 34-14 lead before the quarter was over.
“We were expecting a lot closer game,” Laventure said. “They took care of Mahtomedi last week and we lost to Mahtomedi earlier in the season. It all came together and we played one of the best games we played all year.”
Many Totino-Grace players believe that 30-20 loss to Mahtomedi in the season’s fourth game was a turning point.
“It was a great wake-up call, we didn’t look at it as a bad thing,” said linebacker Colin Hustad. “We figured out what was wrong and got it corrected.”
Bjorn Bloom was 22 of 41 for 250 yards and caught a touchdown pass for Rogers (12-1), but the Royals were a combined 7-for-22 on third and fourth downs.
“Our defensive philosophy is we’re going to swarm, hit, go for broke, know what’s going on, get your reads down and then ride to the ball, hustle and make hits,” said Hustad, who finished with nine tackles. “That’s what we did.”
Totino-Grace led 14-0 after the first quarter. Krueser and Nick Frandsen connected for a 44-yard pass early, and Kromah scored from 6 yards out late.
“They came out and made the plays right away and we didn’t,” Franz said.
Rogers used some trickery to stay in the game in the second when running back Derek Vidor threw a 4-yard pass to Bloom to make it 14-7.
Charlie Hines for the Royals and Anthony Gullickson for the Eagles are actually best friends. Before the game, Gullickson said they would play their games and let the better man win. Hines agreed that it was “pretty cool.”
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