MAYER – For the first time in school history, the Mayer Lutheran football team will be playing for a state championship. In order to reach that ultaimte goal, the Crusaders will face their toughest take of the season as the only thing that keeps Mayer Lutheran from a state title is the Minneota Vikings.
The Vikings have the pedigree of success over the past decades. Minneota has won three state titles since 2014 including 2017 in which they beat Mayer Lutheran in the state semifinals.
This is a different team though on the sideline for Mayer Lutheran. After already making school history by reaching the Prep Bowl, the Crusaders are ready to add another chapter to their legacy.
Neither team has played a close game this season. Mayer Lutheran has outscored their opponents 495-106. Minneota has outscored their oppoennts 524-33. The Vikings have allowed just six points throughout the first three quarters all season long.
Mayer Lutheran’s closest game of the season came in the first game of the season in which they were missing four key starters. It was their lone loss of the season in a 32-27 defeat against Gibbo-Fairfax-Winthrop. Since then, the Crusaders have rattled off 12-straight wins inlcuding a 48-12 win over the same G-F-W team in the section championship game.
Minneota’s two closest games have been against BOLD and Rushford-Peterson, both 20 point wins. BOLD held the Vikings to a season-low 20 points but failed to score. Rushford-Peterson struggled to get anything going offensively but held Minneota to 28 points in a 28-8 loss in the Class A semifinals.
“Mayer is a very big and talented team,” Minneota coach Chad Johnson said. “They have a lot of different weapons. We have seen good running teams and good passing teams throughout the season but I don’t believe any team has had this many athletes and this much balance.They have a good mix of size and speed. If you keep extra guys in the box to contain their run game, then you risk giving up a big play with their passing. If you commit an extra guy to their passing game, you risk giving up a big run play.”
Both Mayer Lutheran and Minneota will most likely be playing in their closest game of the seasons when they battle it out for the state title. Both teams also bring experience into the mactchup. Mayer Lutheran features a roster with 16 seniors, many of who play both sides of the ball. Minneota has 11 seniors on the roster.
Minneota reached the championship game with a win over Rushford-Peterson in the semifinals. The Vikings used a quick start to put the Trojans in a hole early on. After a 73-yard touchdown run from C Sik to put Minneota on the board, Sik scored again after an interception to give the Vikings a 14-0 lead.
An 18-yard touchown pass from Isaac Pohlen to P Gillund on 3rd and long was the backbreaker for R-P as Minneota extended their lead to three scores before half.
Mayer Lutheran also used a quick start to reach the state championship game. After forcing a three and out for defense, the Crusader went 97 yards on just two plays to take a 7-0 lead. Another stop from the defense set up a punt for New York Mills. Mayer Lutheran blocked the punt and Teigan Martin returned for his second score of the game put the Eagles down two scores in a hurry.
Getting off to a quick start will be the key once again for both teams in the Prep Bowl. The team that can stick to their gameplan the most early on should have the advantage. Mayer Lutheran is built to score quickly so they seem better suited for a comeback if need be. A hot start for the Crusaders would force the Vikings to air it out more, something they do on ocasion.
Minneota features size the Crusaders haven’t seen before. Mayer Lutheran features speed the Vikings haven’t seen before.
Both teams should be able to move the ball but it could come down to penalties and turnovers that determine a winner.
I belive these are the two best teams in Class A and they’ll get the chance to prove who is the best on the state’s biggest stage.
PREDICTION – Mayer Lutheran 27, Minneota 21
Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter – @Kovar_HJSports