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Football: Unbelievable! NLS wins state title on game's last play

Schultz to Paffrath to Christensen leads to a state championship play for the ages for NLS

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New London-Spicer senior Gabe Rohman hoists the Class AAA state championship trophy after downing Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 27-26 at US Bank Stadium on Saturday, December 3, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune
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MINNEAPOLIS — The New London-Spicer Wildcats took their “all gas, no breaks” mantra as far as their gas tank could lead them and it led them to a miracle comeback as time expired.

The Wildcats beat Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton on the final play of the game en route to a 27-26 victory and the 2022 Class AAA Prep Bowl title Saturday.
NLS trailed 26-21 against D-G-F on the Rebels’ 48-yard line with five seconds remaining. Then sophomore quarterback Blake Schultz dropped back in the pocket and fired a deep ball inside the 20-yard line in search of another Minneapolis Miracle at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Schultz connected with junior tight end Grant Paffrath and before D-G-F could wrap him up near the 13-yard line, Paffrath heard senior split end Brycen Christensen yelling his name, so Paffrath made an instinctive “in the moment” play.

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New London-Spicer junior Jack Hanson leaps into the arms of a coach while celebrating a 27-26 victory over Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton during the Class AAA state championship at US Bank Stadium on Saturday, December 3, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune
The Wildcats of New London-Spicer won their second state football title in school history Saturday afternoon at US Bank Stadium after downing D-G-F 27-26 on Saturday, December 3, 2022, in Minneapolis.

Paffrath lateraled the ball to his left to Christensen near the sideline and Christensen sprinted into the end zone with the clock showing zero to clinch NLS’ second Prep Bowl title in program history. The first came in 2009.

“I knew that I could throw him the ball, so I threw him it. Then I got tackled,” Paffrath said. “I didn’t even see the end of the play. I just heard everyone yelling.”

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Christensen added, “It was a perfect throw from Blake to Grant. I saw (Grant) was getting tackled, so I was yelling his name and he found me.”

Wildcats head coach Chad Gustafson and his coaching staff emphasized all season long to their team “don’t get tackled with the ball” during two-point attempts. In this case, it was on a 48-yard, last-effort play for a state championship.

“Heads up, smart kid. (Grant)’s not going to get tackled on the 5-yard line to end the state tournament,” said Gustafson, who has been a part of both of NLS’ state championships, currently as the head coach and in 2009 as the offensive coordinator. “Just a heads-up kid; all these kids are. They fought hard and made just one heck of a heads-up play.

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New London-Spicer junior defensive end Brody Duke, center, attempts to break up a pass from Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton quarterback Owen Leach during the Class AAA state championship at US Bank Stadium on December, 3, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune
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“Grant’s a very good athlete, but I was surprised that Brycen was behind him.”

Christensen’s touchdown cemented a three-play, 17-second, 65-yard game-winning drive by NLS, which had no timeouts remaining.

Christensen also had the only other catch of the drive, a 22-yard catch to D-G-F’s 43-yard line on a designed underneath play.
“We just decided with five seconds, it’s go time,” Gustafson said of his Wildcats that utilized every last mile they had left in the tank to get their storybook finish. “Blake did a great job. He’s the coolest, calmest sophomore. … Unbelievable.”

NLS lost possession of its 21-20 lead with 24 seconds left in the game.

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Wildcats senior Brycen Christensen catches a pass over Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton defender Owen Leach during the Class AAA state championship at US Bank Stadium on December, 3, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune
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D-G-F marched 95 yards down field, converted one fourth down, and Jordan Summers capped off the 10-play drive with his second rushing touchdown of the game on a 19-yard run.

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In search of a seven-point lead, D-G-F attempted a two-point conversion. Summers’ attempt to reach the end zone failed, giving the Wildcats the outright win on Christensen’s touchdown.

Summers, who rushed 33 times for 169 yards and two touchdowns, came into Saturday’s title game with a banged-up knee. He did physical therapy, attended numerous doctors appointments, and practiced with the team for the first time Friday since the team’s state semifinal victory over Fairmont.

“Because of his ability, his work ethic, his physicality, his feet, his mental toughness, we gave him the ball a lot (this season),” Rebels head coach Anthony Soderberg said.

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Members of the New London-Spicer student section cheer on the Wildcats during the Class AAA state championship at US Bank Stadium on December, 3, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

D-G-F’s appearance and loss in the Prep Bowl both come as firsts in program history.

“It’s hard, but it’s a part of life, you’re going to lose sometimes,” Summers said of the loss. “It’s hard to choke down because you feel like you have it, then you just don’t at the end.”

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NLS 27, D-G-F 26

D-G-F (12-0)  7   7   0   12 — 26
NLS (10-2)     0   14   7   6 — 27

Scoring Plays
DGF – Jordan Summers 12 run (Hayden Hauf kick)
NLS – Mason Dezler 4 run (Gabe Rohman kick)
NLS – Delzer 5 pass from Blake Schultz (Rohman kick)
DGF – Owen Leach 10 pass from Caleb Johnson (Hauf kick)
NLS – Blake Schultz 1 run (Rohman kick)
DGF – Leach 2 run (Hauf kick failed)
DGF – Summers 19 run (Two-point failed)
NLS – Christensen 48 pass from Schultz

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D-G-F
First downs: 20 … Penalties: 5-21 … Rushing (Individual and team): Jordan Summers 33-169, Owen Leach 7-33, Brody Friend 1-1, Nicholas Waale 1-1. Total: 44-189 … Passing (Individual and team): Leach 2-8-1 76, Caleb Johnson 1-1-0 10. Total: 3-9-86 ... Receiving: Drew Sheeley 2-76, Leach 1-10 … Interceptions: none … Fumble recoveries: Ethan Hellerud 1 … Tackles (solo-assist): Leach 4-6, Johnson 3-6, Friend 3-4, Max Baumgartner 0-7, Waale 3-3, Kolton Wagner 0-6, Bodey Devries 1-3, Brody O’Keefe 1-3, Sheeley 2-1, Chandler Wosick 1-1, Aiden Edeen 0-2, Summers 0-2, Hellerud 0-1, Jaeger Cyr 0-1, Joshua Dudgeon 0-1, Victor Sosa Krabbenhoft 0-1 … QB sacks: Max Baumgartner 0.5, Kolton Wagner 0.5

NLS
First downs: 17 … Penalties: 5-58 … Rushing (Individual and team): Mason Delzer 27-119, Brycen Christensen 3-7, Blake Schultz 5-3, Lucas Swenson 1-2. Total: 36-131 … Passing (Individual and team): Schultz 11-14-0 185 ... Receiving: Christensen 4-79, Paffrath 3-48, Gabe Rohman 2-37, Gavin Degner 1-16, Mason Delzer 1-5 … Interceptions: Rohman 1 … Fumble recoveries: none … Tackles (solo-assist): Hunter Downey 8-5, Degner 2-5, Grant Paffrath 1-6, Luke Knudsen 1-4, Lucas Swenson 0-5, Wyatt Steele 1-3, Christopher Schneider 0-4, Reid Holmquist 1-2, Brody Duke 2-0, Elijah Jacobson 1-1, Marshel Johnson 1-1, Christensen 1-1, Adam Sandau 0-2, Bennett Schultz 1-0, Everett Halvorson 0-1, Rohman 0-1, Kylar Rodriguez 0-1 … QB sacks: none

Michael Lyne joined the West Central Tribune as a sports reporter in May 2022, following his graduation from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, where he graduated with a bachelors degree in journalism and a minor degree in Spanish studies.

You may reach Michael at mlyne@wctrib.com, or by calling (320) 214-4345.
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