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Class AAA Semifinal Dassel Cokato 21 Esko 14

Posted: Saturday, November 20, 2021 - 7:28 PM

Two seasons ago, the Dassel-Cokato football team finished as the runner-up in Class AAA during the Minnesota State High School League’s State Tournament. An opportunity to climb that final step to secure the program’s first-ever football state crown became a reality following a 21-14 victory over Esko in the Class AAA semifinals on Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Senior running back Eli Gillman carried the Chargers (13-0) with 140 yards on 23 carries and all three touchdowns to send Dassel-Cokato to the Prep Championship game on Saturday, Nov. 27 where it will face Plainview-Elgin-Millville. It will be the Chargers’ third appearance in a championship game. Prior to the Prep Bowl Era, Dassel-Cokato was the runner-up in Class B in 1972, the first season of a structured state tournament.

Gillman scored on a 1-yard run on fourth down with 1:26 remaining in regulation to end what was a tense, dramatic game throughout. It wasn’t until moments later, though, when the Chargers could full celebrate. Esko (11-1) was on the move, but any thoughts of a comeback were thwarted when senior linebacker Jack Hillmann intercepted Eskomos junior quarterback Ty Christensen near midfield with 43 seconds left in regulation.

Esko, which had trailed early, took the lead early in the fourth quarter when junior running back Nolan Witt scored from a yard out.

But the Chargers responded on Gillman’s longest run of the game, a 44-yarder, to tie the score at 14-all with 9:39 left in regulation.

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