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Class A Football: Blackjacks return to state championship game

Dawson-Boyd quarterback Joey Lee runs for a 38-yard touchdown as bewildered Sleepy Eye St. Mary's defenders stand and watch during the fourth quarter of the Class A state semifinals on Saturday at the Metrodome. Lee ran for two touchdowns and threw for two in the Blackjacks' 27-18 win and they play either Mahnomen or Bethlehem Academy on Nov. 30 in the state championship game.

MINNEAPOLIS — The good news for the Dawson-Boyd football team is that the Blackjacks are back in the Class A state championship game after defeating Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s 27-18 in the state semifinals on Saturday at the Metrodome.

The not-as-bad-as-it could-be news is that they will have two weeks until the title game against Mahnomen, which they hope will be enough time to allow Dalton Palmer and Mike Anyasike, their top two running backs and two of their top defensive players, to regain their health.

Joey Lee threw for two touchdowns and ran for two scores to lead Dawson-Boyd over the Knights, but the Blackjacks lost Palmer to an ankle injury early in the second half. Anyasike has been playing but battling a nagging hamstring injury.

“When you’re in this situation, I think you’d like to turn around and play the next week because you’re rolling,” said Blackjacks head coach Cory Larson. “But I think it’s one of those things where we’re happy we have two weeks and let Mike and Dalton heal up a bit. You just hope it’s nothing serious.”

Having both Palmer and Anyasike out, or at less than full speed, takes a lot of juice out of the Blackjacks’ offense, especially.

Palmer came into Saturday’s game with 1,485 yards and 29 touchdowns and Anyasike — the team’s leading rusher until suffering the hamstring injury in week eight — still has 1,234 yards and 14 TDs.

Palmer had 69 yards on 13 carries when he was injured. Anyasike finished with 11 carries for just 21 yards.

“Fortunately, we got a lead and made (Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s) play from behind,” said Joey Lee, who hit 7 of 10 passes for 175 yards and ran for 41. “After that, we made just enough plays, with both our (starting) running backs essentially being out.”

Defensively, Palmer is the team’s third-leading tackler with 73 total tackles and Anyasike is fifth with 51 stops.

The injury news shouldn’t let too much air out of the Blackjacks’ victory, which puts them back in the championship game after a one-year absence. They lost in the state semifinals last year after winning the 2011 state title.

The Blackjacks (12-1) play Mahnomen (13-0), the defending Class A champions and the team Dawson-Boyd defeated for the 2011 championship, at 10 a.m. Nov. 30 at the Metrodome.

Mahnomen defeated Bethlehem Academy 19-0 in Saturday’s other Class A semifinal game. Mahnomem clipped BA 20-14 in last year’s championship game after the Cardinals ousted Dawson-Boyd in the semifinals.

On Saturday, Joey Lee hit wide receiver Michael Lee on a 36-yard scoring play in the first quarter, then Joey Lee plunged one yard for a second quarter TD that put Dawson-Boyd ahead 13-6 at halftime.

SESM’s David Surprenant hauled in a 63-yard touchdown pass on its first second-half possession and the Blackjacks clung to a one-point lead.

But Dawson-Boyd responded with a 8-play, 65-yard drive capped by Joey Lee’s 24-yard scoring pass to Noah Stelter. The pair hooked up on the 2-point conversion, too, and the Blackjacks led 21-12.

“Basically, I just blocked a little bit, then released,” Stelter said of the touchdown. “Joe threw a great ball. I just beat my defender enough, I guess.”

The Blackjacks twice held on fourth-down plays, once at the D-B 18 yard line in the third quarter, and again early in the fourth quarter at the Blackjacks’ 7 yard line. Aside from three big plays that resulted in 144 yards and two touchdowns, D-B limited the Knights to 170 total yards.

Then, after Dawson-Boyd’s second fourth-down stop, two defensive breakdowns by the Knights helped the Blackjacks salt the game away.

On the first, Lee threw to a wide-open Kyler Collins on a third-and-7 play from the D-B 10 yard line. Collins took the short pass and ran 35 yards before a Knight could even get close. Collins was finally dragged out of bounds after a 49-yard gain to the SESM’s 41.

Two plays later, the Knights were fooled again. But so were most of the Blackjacks.

Dawson-Boyd unintentionally ran a trick play when center Cody Aafedt snapped the ball but not into Lee’s hands. Lee made a heads-up play, snatching the ball out of Aafedt’s hands and running untouched up the middle as the perplexed Knights defenders and Blackjacks stood and watched, apparently thinking the play had ended. Lee was the only player on the field moving faster than a trot as he hustled 38 yards for the TD that made it 27-12 with 4:19 left.

“It was really weird,” Joey Lee said. “The center snapped the ball but I didn’t feel it hit my hands. He was just holding it between his legs so I just grabbed it. They (the Knights) didn’t know what was going on, just like we didn’t. I managed to get it in the end zone.”

Larson laughed and said the team would take credit for the play’s effectiveness.

“It was one of those things where the ball got stuck on the center’s butt,” Larson said. “I’m not sure exactly what happened on that one. I thought the ball was snapped early, everybody stood up, no whistles. We’ll say it was a designed play because it worked so well. But it was not.”

The Knights managed a third touchdown with 2:35 to play but, with no timeouts remaining, they could only watch as the Blackjacks all but ran out the clock.

“It’s a big win,” Stelter said. “Last year, we lost in this game so it’s a big win for us. Hopefully we can carry it over to the next game.”

Dawson-Boyd 27, Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s 18

Dawson-Boyd (12-1)         7 6 8 6 — 27

SESM (12-1)        0 6 6 6 — 18

D – Michael Lee 36 pass from Joey Lee (Easton Popma kick)

D – Joey Lee 1 run (kick failed)

S – Brandon Helget 31 run (pass failed)

S – David Surprenant 63 pass from Helget (pass failed)

D – Noah Stelter 24 pass from Joey Lee (Stelter pass from Joey Lee)

D – Joey Lee 38 run (pass failed)

S – Helget 4 run (pass failed)


Team statistics

First downs: 11 … Rushing: 34-135 … Passing (com-att-yds-int.): 7-19-175-1 … Fumbles lost: none … Penalties: 10-69

Individual statistics

Rushing: Dalton Palmer 13-69, Joey Lee 9-41, Michael Anyasike 11-21, Christian Thoen 1-4 … Passing: Joey Lee 7-19-175-1 ... Receiving: Michael Lee 3-79, Kyler Collins 2-60, Noah Stelter 1-24, Karson Lindblad 1-12 … Punting: Joey Lee 5-34.4 … Interceptions: Michael Lee 1 … Fumble recoveries: none … Tackles (solo-assist): Keith Abraham 1, Noah Stelter 7, Michael Anyasike 6 … QB sacks: none

Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s

Team statistics

First downs: 14 … Rushing: 45-205 … Passing (com-att-yds-int.): 5-14-109-1 … Fumbles lost: none … Penalties: 4-20

Individual statistics

Rushing: David Surprenant 16-103, Brandon Helget 19-90, Cole Reinarts 1-7, Jaden Wait 8-4, Lucas Heiderscheidt 1-1 … Passing: Brandon Helget 5-14-109-1 ... Receiving: David Surprenant 1-63, Jared rothmeier 1-24, Kodan Kosak 1-21, John Brandl 1-7, Mike Hirsch 1-(-6) … Punting: Lucas Heiderscheidt 4-36.8 … Interceptions: Alex Sellner 1 … Fumble recoveries: none … Tackles (solo-assist): Mike Hirsch 7, Carter Krzmarzick 5 … QB sacks: Mike Hirsch 2

Tom Larson

Tom Larson is the sports editor of the West Central Tribune.

(320) 214-4372