MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Chatfield’s defense came up big when it mattered most.
A group of Gophers stopped Austin Buysse just shy of the goal line on the opening play of the fourth quarter and Chatfield went on to beat Minneota/Lincoln HI 17-7 Friday in the Class 2A Championship game at the Prep Bowl.
Jacob Neis ran for 105 yards and a score and Alex Bradt added 69 yards rushing for the Gophers (13-1), making their first championship game appearance since winning three Class C titles from 1994-96.
“We knew they couldn’t run it on us, so we really worked on stopping their passing,” said Neis, who also plays in the Chatfield secondary.
Austin Buysse threw for 204 yards and a touchdown for Minneota/Lincoln HI (13-1), which was seeking its second title in five years. Eighty of those yards came in a garbage time drive that was capped by a 6-yard pass to Jeff Gladis with 6 seconds left to avoid the shutout. The Vikings had scored 81 points in its two previous state tournament games, and had scored less than 30 just three times all season.
“They did a nice job getting off blocks and we didn’t create big enough holes,” said Minneota/Lincoln HI coach Chad Johnston.
It was a Buysse run that didn’t go anywhere that was the game’s turning point.
Highlighted by a 57-yard completion from Buysse to Nathan Pavek, Minneota/Lincoln HI drove 86 yards in 13 plays to get to the Chatfield 1-yard line on the opening play of the fourth quarter. However, Dalton Schwier was part of a defensive surge that prevented Buysse from reaching the end zone on a fourth down run.
“That was fun; that was my favorite moment,” Schwier said. “We were expecting either a dive or a pitch. I just had to contain the end and get in on the stop.”
Chatfield responded with a 13-play, 97-yard drive that concluded with a 20-yard field goal by Nate Skare. Following a Neis interception, Skare added a 3-yard score for a 17-0 Chatfield lead and its first bit of breathing room.
“It just felt great because it felt like we finally did it,” Skare said.
Neis broke a scoreless tie with 50 seconds left in the first half, plunging in from the 1.
The score completed a 64-yard drive that was highlighted by a 21-yard gain on a hook-and-ladder play — the last 17 yards by Neis — and a 26-yard run by Neis.
Another stand by the Gophers’ defense set up the drive.
The Vikings’ Nicholas Esping intercepted a pass from Skare at the Chatfield 29. But after a first down got the ball to the 19, Buysse was sacked by Jayme LaPlante and Hank Friederichs on third down and Schwier on fourth down.
“Without the back-to-back sacks we’re kicking a field goal probably at least, hopefully coming up with three points, and then you end up on the 1-yard line and can’t punch it in,” Johnston said. “Those are two drives that hopefully we’re scoring on, but they did a wonderful job responding with the two drives they scored on.”
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