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Football 2023 Semifinals Day 2 Recap

Posted: Friday, November 17, 2023 - 10:50 PM

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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. Here is a look at what happened on Day 2 of the semifinals. 

Class AA

  • Barnesville 38, Jackson County Central 23: Barnesville wasn’t interested in having its season, or its championship reign, end on Friday, Nov. 17. Not even a nine-point halftime deficit could deter the Trojans. Barnesville’s season is very much alive following a 32-point outburst in the second half that paved the way to a 38-23 victory over Jackson County Central in the first Class AA semifinal. The Trojans took the lead for good with 4:24 left in the third quarter when sophomore running back Cameron Halvorson scored on a 14-yard on 4th-and-goal. It was his second rushing touchdown, the other a 25-yarder in the second quarter. He finished with 79 yards rushing on 10 carries. Senior quarterback Zachary Bredman threw for 118 yards and two touchdowns, both coming in the fourth quarter when the Trojans (13-0) created plenty of cushion on the scoreboard. Jackson County Central (11-1) received 74 rushing yards from senior running back Seth Stai and 59 from sophomore quarterback Roman Voss. Voss was injured on the first play of the second half and did not return.
  • Eden Valley-Watkins 42, Cannon Falls 24: Senior quarterback Nolan Geislinger was a double threat on the ground and through the air in powering Eden Valley-Watkins to a 42-24 victory over Cannon Falls in the second Class AA semifinal. The 6-foot, 170-pounder rushed for 120 yards and scored two touchdowns. Through the air, he completed 5 of 8 passes for 179 yards and three touchdowns. Junior wide receiver Wyatt Moehrle had four of those receptions for 170 yards and all three touchdowns. He had 107 yards after his receptions. Eden Valley-Watkins (12-0) will make its first appearance in a state championship game since finishing as the Class AA runner-up in 2016. Cannon Falls (10-3) rushed for 445 yards. Leading the way were senior running back Dylan Banks with 152 yards on 22 tries and senior backfield mate Derrik Bechtholdt, who had 127 yards on 16 carries.

Class AAAA

  • Hutchinson 56, North Branch 28: Fueled by two doses of motivation, Hutchinson raced past North Branch for a 56-28 victory in the Class AAAA to set up a showdown with Rocori for the Prep Bowl Championship next week. Junior back Nathan Thode blazed the way with 171 yards on 24 carries and scored four touchdowns and senior running back Carter Verhasselt added 120 yards and another touchdown to send the Tigers (10-2) back to the Class AAAA for the third consecutive season. In 2021, the Tigers won the Class AAAA crown with a victory over Kasson-Mantorville. A year later, Hutchinson was unable to defend that crown and lost to Simley. Next week, the Tigers will face Rocori, which dealt them one of their two losses, an 11-0 setback in Week 4. Hutchinson built a 32-14 advantage over North Branch (10-2) at the half and extended it to 48-20 after three quarters. Junior quarterback Jacob Robillard rushed for 120 yards and completed 4 of 5 passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns for the Vikings.


  • St. Thomas Academy 42, Alexandria Area 30: Just beyond the midpoint of the second quarter, St. Thomas Academy was not only staring at a 23-point deficit, but also the unwanted finish to its 2023 season. Senior playmakers Savion Hart, a finalist for the Mr. Football Award, and quarterback Maximus Sims kicked things into high gear for the Cadets in engineering 42 unanswered points to power St. Thomas Academy past Alexandria Area in the first Class AAAAA semifinal. Hart, an energetic running back, rushed for 227 yards on 25 carries and scored three touchdowns. He had a long run of 86 yards. Sims completed 12 of 15 passes for 245 yards and three touchdowns of his own to send the Cadets (10-2) into the Class AAAAA championship for the fourth time since 2015. The Cadets finished as the runner-up in each of those three previous Prep Bowl appearances. Alexandria Area, making its 12th state tournament appearance, was trying to earn a berth in a championship game for the first time since finishing as the Class AA runner-up in 1994. Things certainly went Alexandria’s way in the early going. Junior quarterback Chase Thompson completed 28 of 47 passes for 330 yards and two touchdowns in helping the Cardinals (11-1) build its early lead.


  • Edina 28, Eden Prairie 7: Midway through the regular season, Edina was 1-3 with one of those was a lopsided loss to Eden Prairie in Week 2. No one could have realistically predicted then that the Hornets would be in a position to win a state championship. Yet, that is where the Hornets find themselves after a stunning victory over top-ranked and previously undefeated Eden Prairie in the Class AAAAAA semifinals. Edina (9-3) won its eighth consecutive game to extend an improbable streak behind sophomore quarterback Mason West, who completed 8 of 13 passes for 170 yards and three touchdowns. Senior running back John Warpinski was the workhorse on the ground with 194 yards on 35 carries and a touchdown. While Edina’s offense maintained ball control with a balanced attack, it was the Hornets’ defense that was equally impressive in holding Eden Prairie to just more than 200 yards of total offense. Edina, which has a state-best 201 team championships across many sports, has not won a football crown, although Edina West did with the Class AA championship in 1978 prior to the Prep Bowl era. The Hornets will face Centennial on Friday, Nov. 24 for a chance at the school’s 202nd championship. Eden Prairie finished the season 11-1.   


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