ST. CLOUD -- Stopped at the threshold again.
Eden Valley-Watkins overcame the nearly unstoppable Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City rushing game to win the Section 5AA championship game 39-28 on Thursday night at Husky Stadium.
It was a heartbreaking loss for ACGC, which has been so close, so many times.
The play by both teams, each 10-0 to this point, was marvelous and hard-hitting through all four quarters. ACGC had the edge in size but the Eagles were shifty and a bit quicker. And the Eden Valley-Watkins' offense once again had a lethal passing attack, this year triggered by another in a long line of Eagle sharpshooters, junior Tyler Geislinger.
The Falcons' three first-half touchdowns equaled the number that the Eden Valley-Watkins defense had allowed in their 10 wins this season.
Buboltz scampered seven yards to cap a 79-yard drive and tie the score 7-7 through one period.
The Eagles made the most of good field position the first half. Starting near midfield, Geislinger quickly moved the Eagles to the lip of the end zone, where Ryan Tri took the snap and followed a wedge into the end zone.
ACGC didn't chase down a short kickoff and EVW was in business at the Falcon 25. This time Geisingler threw six yards to his favorite receiver Nate Schoenecker for the score, then ran around end for the two-point conversion and a 21-7 lead with 8:40 left in the half. The Falcons finally got rolling again in the last five minutes. Tanner directed a short 35-yard drive, stoked mainly by Buboltz runs off tackle. Tanner, rolling right, hit Huisman in the end zone from seven yards out for the TD, and Huisman ran in for two and it was 21-15 with 3:12 to go in the half.
The ACGC defense held again and this time started back at its own 29. Buboltz busted a 47-yard run off right tackle. Tanner again rolled right and this time found Justin Hanson for and 11-yard TD. Huisman's kick was good and ACGC went to the locker room leading 22-21.
EVW took the lead right back post-intermission on another run by Tri. The score followed a 20-minute injury time out for an Eagles lineman, who was taken by ambulance.
Then its was ACGC's turn. This time a 65-yard drive with Travis Frederiksen getting the final three. The run failed and ACGC led 28-27.
The Eagles made a break blocking a Huisman punt at midfield. Tri broke a 26 run to the Falcons 20. Two plays later Geislinger lofted a perfect fade to Tri in the end zone for the score and a 33-28 lead at 1:30 of the third. It was Geislinger's 19th TD pass of the season and Tri's eighth TD catch.
The Eagles drained the clock with a long march that started at their own 37 yard line with 7:14 left. The game ended with the Eagles scoring on yet another pass from Geislinger to Schoenecker in the end zone with 25 seconds left.
The Eagles travel to Morris next Friday to play either Hawley or Pelican Rapids, who play for the 8AA crown tonight.
The Eagles (11-0) came in the winners of four straight section titles, the 2007 trophy coming at the expense of the Falcons, 21-13.
The Falcons (10-1) last state trip was in 2001, when were state champions.
EVW 39, ACGC 28
EV-Watkins 7 14 12 6 -- 39
ACGC 7 15 6 0 -- 28
EVW - Ryan Tri 7 pass from Tyler Geislinger (Peter Euerle kick)
ACGC - Deron Buboltz 7 run (Kurtis Huisman kick)
EVW - Tri 1 run (kick failed)
EVW - Nick Schoenecker 11 pass from Geislinger (Geislinger run)
ACGC - Kurtis Huisman 7 pass from Jordan Tanner (Huisman run)
ACGC - Justin Hanson 11 pass from Tanner (Huisman kick)
EVW - Tri 3 run (run failed)
ACGC - Travis Frederiksen 3 run (run failed)
EVW - Tri 17 pass from Geislinger (pass failed)
EVW - Schoenecker 8 pass from Geislinger (kick failed)
NOTE: Other statistics not available at press time.