Class AAAA Prep Bowl Championship: Hutchinson 14, Rocori 6
Posted: Friday, November 24, 2023 - 7:25 PM
Exaltation typically comes from the sideline of a member school that just captured a Prep Bowl championship to end its football season. But it was understandably more pronounced Hutchinson sideline on Friday, Nov. 24 at U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis.
Along with the joy of defeating Rocori 14-6 for the Class AAAA championship, there was a sense that nagging burdens had been lifted as well. That, the Tigers, believe added to an especially sweet victory, the latest in one of the richest traditions in Minnesota high school football history. In winning the sixth state championship in program history, Hutchinson atoned for losses to Simley in last year’s championship game and to Rocori in Week 4 this season.
In doing so, Hutchinson used its vaunted running attack that specializes in chewing up yards and draining the clock. That formula was capped on a 2-yard run by senior running back Charles Renner with 5:24 remaining in regulation time that paved the way to Hutchinson’s latest championship and first since winning the Class AAAA crown in 2021.
Renner’s second touchdown of the game capped a 15-play, 66-yard drive that drained nearly nine minutes from the clock. The Tigers protected that lead with an interception and then another mini-drive that evaporated the final couple of minutes from the season.
Junior running back Nathan Thode led Hutchinson’s running game that compiled 200 rushing yards. Senior running back Carter Verhasselt chipped in 75 and Renne added 44. Two weeks after losing 11-0 to Rocori on Sept. 22, Hutchinson (11-2) reshuffled its offensive attack to get Thode more touches on the ball. The tinkering worked as Hutchinson averaged more than 41 points per game since the loss entering the championship game.
Thode, from the direct snap, scored on the two-point conversion run following Renner’s second touchdown.
Rocori (10-3) climbed into a 6-all tie on a 67-yard scoring connection from senior quarterback Will Steil to sophomore wide receiver Caleb Maddox. Steil threw for 128 yards and ran for 31 to lead the Spartans, who were trying to win the Class AAAA title for the first time since 2019.
Hutchinson held a 6-0 lead at the break behind a 3-yard run from Renner with 2:08 left in the second quarter. It capped an 8-play, 31-yard drive that lasted just more than three minutes.
Despite having just the six points, the Tigers dominated play in the first half. They held the ball nearly twice as long and compiled 139 total yards compared to 48 for the Spartans. Thode rushed for 61 yards and Verhasselt added 42.