Thanksgiving is next week, and it still seems a little strange that there won’t be any high school football played next Friday.
As chronicled most of the season, Minnesota’s prep football schedule got moved up two weeks this year due to scheduling conflicts with the Gophers hosting home games in the final two weeks of their regular season. The result was the season starting earlier in August, with most programs playing about one third of their regular season schedule before school started.
TCF Bank Stadium hosted the Prep Bowl last weekend, marking the end of the 2015 high school football season in Minnesota. There were 14 teams playing for trophies over the course of two days. When it was all over, one team was celebrating and the other was devastated.
Here are storylines from each match-up in the Prep Bowl.
Kruah Carries Osseo To State Championship
Coach Derrin Lamker would be the first person to admit his Osseo Orioles were a longshot to win a state championship this year. But the stage was set after Totino-Grace upset Eden Prairie in the state playoffs, then the Orioles knocked off Totino-Grace in the semifinals with a late rally. On the other side, East Ridge made a heck of a run to the Prep Bowl after turmoil before the season. That led to the head coach resigning.
In the end, Prince Kruah literally carried Osseo to a Prep Bowl title over the Raptors. The running back had 43 carries for 189 yards and the game-winning score with about 23 seconds left in regulation. On that drive, Kruah had eight carries for 39 yards. It was quite the finish for a team that lost three straight games in the middle of the season.
St. Michael-Albertville Wins First State Title
The St. Michael-Albertville football program had been knocking on the door, but the Knights finally got through to win their first state championship in school history. With Eric Sjelin sidelined due to injury, Mitch Kartes stepped up in a big way for the STMA run game. Just a sophomore, Kartes ran for 147 yards and two scores to lead the Knights to the title. The Knights’ defense was as impressive, limiting St. Thomas Academy to just seven points in the second half. All coach Jared Essler has done in his time with the Knights is lead them to three consecutive state tournaments, capped by this year’s Prep Bowl.
Becker Continues Dominance In Class 4A
Becker hasn’t lost a game since its season-opener at Minnetonka last year, and the Bulldogs have won most games since in a dominating fashion. They pushed that win streak to 25 games after running over South St. Paul 35-14 to win the Class 4A title. The Bulldogs were led by Gabe Dertinger’s 152 yards and two touchdowns. Becker scored the first 28 points and was in control the whole way. It’s another title for Dwight Lundeen, a coaching legend north of the Twin Cities metro.
Pierz Takes Title In Third Straight State Appearance
Pierz was so close to a chance at a state title last season, suffering a crushing semifinal loss in overtime to Rochester Lourdes, 25-24. The Pioneers made the most of their third straight state tournament appearance, capping off an undefeated season with a Prep Bowl victory over Jackson County Central. Noah Boser and Aaron Weber had big games to lead Pierz to a state championship. Boser had 13 carries for 107 yards and two touchdowns. Weber only completed three passes, but they went for 143 yards and two touchdowns.
Caledonia Back On Top In Class AA
After being a state semifinalist last season, Caledonia was clearly on a mission this year to take home a crown. The Warriors dominated all year and allowed just six points in the state playoffs, including two shutouts. Caledonia handled Pipestone 40-0 to win the Prep Bowl and complete a perfect 14-0 season. The Warriors had six shutouts on the season. Quarterback Owen King had a big state championship game with 13 completions for 207 yards and four touchdowns.
Minneota Ends Historic Run For Minneapolis North
Minneapolis North had a chance to make history with a state title, but the Polars ran into a Minneota program in the middle of its own historic run. Since losing in the 2013 Prep Bowl, the Vikings have won 27 straight games. They won their second straight state championship after knocking off the Polars 35-18 in the Class A Prep Bowl. Isaac Hennen led Minneota with 24 carries for 108 yards and three touchdowns.
Grand Meadow Wins Third Straight Title
Grand Meadow is on one of the more historic runs in 9-man football in Minnesota. The Superlarks ended the 2015 season with their 36th straight victory and third consecutive Prep Bowl victory. Grand Meadow knocked off Underwood 34-20 to win this year’s Prep Bowl after beating them two years ago for their first state title in this stretch. The Superlarks were led by quarterback Michael Stejskal, who passed for 218 yards and three touchdowns and also ran for 119 yards and another score.
It’s hard to believe the prep football season is over until next fall, but now we shift our focus to basketball, hockey and the other winter sports that will take over. For now, it was a fun string of Friday nights on the football field.