Football 2023 Semifinals Day 1 Recap
Posted: Thursday, November 16, 2023 - 9:50 PM
The Minnesota State High School League’s football state tournament entered its second phase with the first of three days of semifinals. Fourteen games across seven enrollment classes will be played to determine berths in the Prep Bowl Championship games on Nov. 24 and Nov. 25.
- Kingsland 36, Fertile-Beltrami 28: In four state tournament appearances, Kingsland has advanced to the state championship game in each trip. The latest is the Knights’ 36-28 victory over Fertile-Beltram in the Class Nine-Player semifinals on Thursday, Nov. 16 at U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis. Senior running back Beau Wiersma rushed for 297 yards on 29 carries and scored four touchdowns to power Kingsland (13-0), who was Class AA runner-up in 2003, its last championship game appearance. Three of Wiersma’s touchdowns came in the first half when Spring Valley built a 22-6 advantage. He opened the scoring on a 64-yard run early in the first quarter and closed the first-half scoring on a 12-yard run with 5:36 left in the second quarter. After Fertile-Beltrami (12-1) pulled to within 22-14 on a 55-yard scoring run by junior running back Isaiah Wright, Kingsland answered with a 47-yard scoring run from Wiersma. Fertile-Beltrami again trimmed the margin to eight points, 36-28, on a 4-yard run by Wright with 4:12 remaining, but Kingsland held firm from there.
- Nevis 35, Otter Tail Central 0: Nevis, a town with a population of 377 and nestled along Highway 34 in Hubbard County, does not have a Minnesota State High School League team state championship trophy on display at its high school. But the Tigers may be on the verge of breaking new ground following a 35-0 victory over Otter Tail Central in the second Class Nine-Player semifinal on Thursday, Nov. 11. Senior Eli Lewis completed just five passes, but four of them went for touchdowns to power the Tigers to their 12th consecutive victory and a berth in the Prep Bowl Championship Game for the first time since finishing runner-up in 2017. Junior running back Ayomide Ogundeji also was a pivotal offensive force with 112 yards rushing on 27 attempts. But really, it was the Nevis defense that helped pave the way to its fourth shutout of the season. The Tigers gave up just 153 total yards to Otter Tail Central (11-1). Junior linebacker Eli Klimek had 10 tackles, including one for a loss, and junior linebacker Devan Lindow had two interceptions, including one he returned 70 yards for a touchdown that gave the Tigers a 28-0 lead with 6:59 left in the third quarter.
- Rocori 7, Byron 0:The plane of the endzones appeared to be made of armor when Rocori and Byron met in the Class AAAA semifinals with a Prep Bowl berth at stake. Each team would threaten to score a coveted first touchdown, but either drives stalled or defenses flexed their muscles. It wasn’t until senior quarterback Will Steil scored on a 2-yard run with 6:27 remaining in regulation that Rocori would gain the edge it wouldn’t relinquish. In addition to the touchdown, junior running back Anthony Rodriguez rushed for 74 yards and Steil threw for 73 in sending the Spartans (10-2) in the Prep Bowl Championship game for the first time since winning the Class AAAA crown in 2019. Rocori was also the Class AAAA champion in 2011. Byron (10-2) mustered 162 total yards in 51 plays. Senior running back Adam Glynn rushed for 96 yards for the Bears and senior quarterback Kale Robinson threw for 75. Byron was attempting to earn a Prep Bowl berth for the first time in four state tournament trips.
- Centennial 20, Lakeville South 13: Centennial earned a long-awaited return to a football championship game with its victory over Lakeville South in the final game of Day 1. Centennial (11-1) took the lead for good when senior quarterback Daylen Cummings lofted a beautifully-placed pass into the awaiting arms of senior wide receiver Josh Lee, who didn’t break stride until hitting the endzone to complete a 71-yard scoring play with eight minutes remaining. Centennial sealed the victory when it converted a 4th-and-4 with 15 seconds left in regulation, which triggered a thunderous celebration of students clad in red on the north side of U.S. Bank Stadium. Early in the fourth quarter, Lakeville South (10-2) grabbed a 13-12 lead when junior running back Jonah Shine burst up the middle for a 35-yard scoring run. After junior running back Connor Cade opened the scoring for Lakeville South on a 45-yard blast up the middle, Centennial responded with two rushing touchdowns from Cummings, one each in the second and third quarters, respectively. Centennial is in a Prep Bowl championship game for the first time since 1984 when it was the Class A runner-up. Centennial must wait until late Friday to find out its championship game opponent. That is when Eden Prairie and Edina square off in the other big-school semifinal.