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Prep Bowl: Minneota wins third Class A title in four years

MINNEAPOLIS - Minneota won the Class A championship for the third time in the past four seasons with a 28-13 victory over Wabasso in the title game on Saturday, Nov. 25 at U.S. Bank Stadium. In addition to Class AA championships in 2009, 2014 and 2015, the Vikings captured three consecutive Class C crowns from 1986-88.

The Vikings' latest championship came on the strength of their running game that accounted for 338 of the team's 372 total yards. Senior running back Isaac Hennen was Minneota's workhorse with 291 rushing yards on 34 carries and three touchdowns. His two fourth-quarter touchdowns snapped what had been a 13-all deadlock early in the fourth quarter.

Hennen, who finished the season with 27 rushing touchdowns, scored on a 54-yard run with 9:59 left in fourth quarter to give the Vikings (14-0) the lead for good. He added a 15-yard run with 2:22 left. That final score was set up on an interception by teammate Cole Sannow, a senior linebacker, with 3:40 left along the near sideline.

Wabasso created the game's third tie when senior fullback Kyle Jacobson scored on a 1-yard run with 11:23 left in the fourth quarter. Earlier, senior quarterback Alex Pohlen had given Minneota a 13-7 lead with 6:21 left in the third quarter on a 1-yard plunge.

Hennen forged a 7-all halftime deadlock on a 23-yard run with 1:50 remaining in the second quarter. It completed a 10-play, 89-yard drive that took five minutes off the clock.

Wabasso opened the scoring on a 1-yard run by senior halfback Cooper Taylor on a 1-yard run. It capped a quick two-play, two-yard drive with 1:26 left in the first quarter. The short field was set up when senior quarterback/strong safety Nick Altermatt burst through the line to block a punt by Minneota senior Alex Pohlen. Teammate Isaac Schmiesing, a senior defensive tackle, recovered the blocked punt and carried it a couple of yards to the 2-yard line.

Minneota had 190 total yards in the first half. Hennen led the way with 140 rushing yards on 16 attempts. Wabasso mustered 86 yards of total offense in 22 plays. Taylor rushed for 52 yards on 10 carries.

Taylor finished with 74 rushing yards to lead the Rabbits (13-1), who generated 228 yards of total offense. Wabasso was making its first Prep Bowl championship game appearance in seven state tournament trips.

Class AAA

Pierz 34, SCL 21

Pierz won the Class AAA championship with a 34-21 victory over St. Croix Lutheran in a battle of unbeatens in the title game on Saturday, Nov. 25 at U.S. Bank Stadium. It is the Pioneers' second Class AAA title in the past three seasons and third championship overall. In 2004, Pierz was the Class AA champion.

The Pioneers (13-0) completed an unbeaten season with a punishing ground game and an opportunistic defense. Pierz rushed for 328 of its 358 total yards, and also took advantage of St. Croix Lutheran's record-tying eight fumbles, four of which were lost. The only time eight fumbles have occurred in a Prep Bowl championship game was in 1987 by Silver Lake in a 30-14 victory over Verndale in the Nine-Man title game.

Senior running back Jalen Jansen rushed for 157 of his 178 yards in the first half and scored two touchdowns for the Pioneers. Junior running back Reese Kapsner chipped in 128 rushing yards and had three touchdowns, including two in the decisive fourth quarter when the Pioneers scored two unanswered touchdowns to open up a 34-14 lead.

St. Croix Lutheran, the Class AAA runner-up for the second consecutive season, was paced by senior running back James Chernohorsky, who had 92 yards on 13 carries and a 58-yard touchdown.

Pierz built a 21-7 halftime lead behind two long touchdown runs by Jansen sandwiched around another long TD run by Kapsner. Jansen gave the Pioneers a two-touchdown advantage on a 49-yard run with 2:07 left in a busy, action-filled second quarter.

His touchdown came 45 seconds after St. Croix Lutheran had pulled to within 14-7 on a 58-yard scoring run by Chernohorsky. After a scoreless first quarter, Pierz scored two touchdowns in about four minutes to build a 14-0 lead. Jansen opened the scoring on a 52-yard run and Kapsner followed with a 38-yarder.

Cherohorsky paced the Crusaders with 72 rushing yards in the first half. St. Croix Lutheran fumbled the ball five times in the first half and lost it twice.

Class AAAAA

Owatonna 63, Elk River 26

Owatonna claimed its second Class AAAAA crown by dethroning defending champion Elk River in a 63-26 victory in the championship game on Saturday, Nov. 25 at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Huskies, the Class AAAAA champion in 2013 in the final game during the Metrodome Era of the Prep Bowl, received a record-tying performance from junior running back Jason Williamson in capturing a state crown title for the second time in five trips to a championship game.

The 6-foot-1, 191-pounder rushed for 213 yards on 23 carries and scored five touchdowns. He had another touchdown on a 67-yard kickoff return early in the second quarter that lifted the Huskies into a 14-all tie at the time.

The six combined touchdowns equaled a mark that was set in 1994 by Kirk Midthun of Triton, Dodge Center, who threw for six TDs in a 40-21 victory over Becker in the Class B championship game. The mark was equaled one day earlier in the 2017 Prep Bowl by Caledonia senior quarterback Owen King, who threw for five touchdowns and ran for another in a 57-6 victory over Pipestone Area in the Class AA championship game.

The Huskies (12-1) accumulated 441 total yards of offense, including 303 on the ground. Williamson accounted for 334 all-purpose yards: 213 rushing, 54 receiving and 67 return yards.

Owatonna used a 42-14 blitz in the second and third quarters to turn and early back-and-forth battle into a 49-20 lead entering the fourth quarter. In that spree, senior defensive back Tucker Alstead had a 29-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown as Elk River was trying to carve into a 35-14 deficit. Williamson's final touchdown was a 5-yard scamper that gave Owatonna a 56-20 lead with 10:28 left in regulation time.

Owatonna's 63-point output is the most in a Prep Bowl championship game since Hutchinson recorded a 67-7 victory over Holy Family Catholic, Victoria, in the Class AAAA title game in 2012.

Elk River, which ran for 700 yards in its semifinal victory over Apple Valley, had bright moments against the Huskies, but were unable to keep pace. Junior running back Adam Nelson rushed for 172 yards on 17 carries and scored two touchdowns. He also set a Prep Bowl record with 157 kickoff return yards. That broke the longstanding mark of Stillwater's Aaron Oden, who had 146 during the 1984 Prep Bowl.

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