November 24, 2018 12:57 PM
Lakeville North defeated Eden Prairie for the second time during the 2018 season, but the stakes were significantly greater on Friday, Nov. 23 when the Panthers recorded a 28-21 victory in the Class AAAAAA championship game at U.S. Bank Stadium.
A wide-open game in the first half by both teams turned into a defensive chess match in the second half that Lakeville North mastered with a pressure that forced turnovers, held the Eagles to short gains and eliminated big scoring plays en route to capturing the school’s first-ever state title. In 2012, Lakeville North finished runner-up to Eden Prairie in the Class AAAAAA title game.
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As Lakeville High School, the Panthers won the Class A championship in 1988, the AA crown in 1992 and the Class AAAAA title in 2003.
Junior running back RaJa Nelson scored what proved to be the winning touchdown when he snapped a 21-all tie with 4:36 left in the third quarter on a 10-yard scoring run. His third touchdown run of the game capped a 28-yard drive that started when the Panthers forced a fumble one play after Eden Prairie had taken over when Lakeville North (13-0) had fumbled.
For the remaining 16 minutes and 24 seconds of regulation, it was defensive stands by both teams that yielded little. Eden Prairie (10-2), the defending big-school champion, had three possessions in the final nine minutes of regulation time, but it couldn’t manufacture a tying touchdown. The Eagles’ last gasp came when they faced a 4th-and-25 at midfield with 30 seconds remaining, but they came up short when senior quarterback Cole Kramer hit sophomore wide receiver Cade Kramer for a 22-yard gain. The hopes of extending a state-best championship trove to 12 crowns had faded away and it set off a frenzy on the Lakeville North sideline.
The Panthers had defeated Eden Prairie 14-0 in Week 2. Lakeville North is the first school to defeat legendary Eden Prairie head coach Mike Grant twice in a season since Larry Thompson, another prep coaching icon, led Lakeville to the 2003 state championship.
Nelson lifted Lakeville North into a 21-all tie at the half on a 1-yard with 54 seconds remaining in the second quarter. The play was set up moments prior on a halfback option pass from senior running back Brian Curtis, Jr., to Nelson for 48 yards.
It capped an entertaining half of highlight-reel long-yardage scoring plays by teams that aren’t accustomed to surrendering them. Lakeville North had 251 total yards in the first half on 35 plays. Eden Prairie compiled 200 yards on 17 plays from scrimmage.
Eden Prairie senior running back Jordan Amundson led all ground-gainers in the first half with 88 yards on two carries. The majority of that came on an 80-yard scoring run that gave the Eagles a 21-14 lead with 5:13 left in the second quarter. About four minutes earlier,
Eden Prairie had tied the score at 14-all on a 1-yard run by senior running back Felipe Izumi.
Lakeville North scored two unanswered touchdowns to take a 14-7 lead late in the fourth quarter. Junior wide receiver Keaton Mohs and senior quarterback Brennan Kuebler on a 73-yard scoring pass with 1:05 left in the first quarter.
Curtis, Jr., led Lakeville North with 62 rushing yards on 13 carries and a touchdown. Nelson chipped in 50 yards on 18 carries.
Updated: November 24, 2018 12:57 PM
Created: November 23, 2018 10:50 PM
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