Orono – W, 19-15 over Benilde-St. Margaret’s
The Spartans scored the game-winning touchdown with under a minute to play to upset No. 2 (4A) Benilde-St. Margaret’s at home. It stopped the program’s three-game skid against the defending Class AAAA champion and also ended the Red Knights' 13-game winning streak.
Trailing 15-12 in the waining moments of the game, Orono took the lead when Nick Prentice connected with Jarvis Thomas on a seven-yard touchdown pass. Prentice finished with 285 yards and two touchdowns through the air, finding Thomas (7 rec, 101 yds, TD) and Zane Taylor (8 rec, 81 yds, TD) with regularity the entire contest.
Orono’s defense was impressive too, holding BSM 25 points below its season average. Junior cornerback Mitchell Hirschberg led the resistance, recording three interceptions in the victory.
Rochester Century – W, 14-12 over Northfield
Century earned one of the most surprising victories of the section semifinals, defeating the previously-undefeated Raiders in a defensive battle in Northfield.
The Panthers defense was the definition of “bend, but don’t break”, surrendering 355 yards, while forcing six turnovers to keep the Raiders offense out of the end zone for most of the game. Junior cornerback Isaiah Tamte picked off two passes and knocked away the potential game-tying, two-point conversion in the fourth quarter.
Thomas Mergen's short touchdown run gave the Panthers a 14-6 advantage early in the fourth quarter. The junior finished with 92 yards and the score for Century, which avenged a 14-0 loss to Northfield in the regular-season finale.
Waconia – W, 20-10 over Chaska
Waconia upset No. 1 (5A) Chaska with a sound performance in all three phases of the game to advance to its first section final since 2007.
The Wildcats never trailed, building a 14-point halftime lead on the strength of Riley Worden’s 21-yard scoop-and-score of Cade Mueller’s forced fumble. It was one of three turnovers forced by the Waconia defense in the contest.
Quarterback Nolan Vanderhoff connected with twin brother, Jaden, for a 26-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter, which was Waconia’s best offensive play of the day. Kicker Tim Stapleton booted two field goals on special teams to help the Wildcats to their most complete victory of 2017.
Big Lake – W, 28-6 over Zimmerman
Nick Keenan’s Hornets raced to a two-touchdown lead in the opening quarter and never looked back in a convincing 28-6 rout of Zimmerman on the road. It was the second year in a row that Big Lake recorded a section semifinal upset to play for a chance at the Class AAAA State Tournament.
Junior Deon Harris paced a punishing running game with 30 carries for 200 yards and three touchdowns. All three totals were season-highs. His 37-yard scoring scamper in the second quarter gave the Hornets a 21-0 lead at intermission.
Twin brother Devonne Harris, a 6-foot-4, 200-pounder, was a force for the Big Lake defense. He notched seven tackles, two sacks and recovered a fumble. The Hornets held the potent Thunder offense to only 202 yards.
Mankato West – W, 14-7 over Chanhassen
The Scarlets advanced to their third-straight Section 2AAAAA final by outlasting the Storm 14-7 in Chanhassen on Saturday.
Both defenses ruled the game and consistently stopped either team from moving the ball. Sophomore quarterback Jack Foster threw for just 98 yards on the day, but found Spencer Spaude twice for 16-yard touchdowns in the second quarter which proved to be the difference.
Following an opening-drive score by Chanhassen, West’s defense pitched a shutout. They held the Storm to just 233 yards of total offense. Senior safety Josh Block’s interception with 80 seconds remaining in the game iced the win for the Scarlets, which will host Waconia for a state tournament berth on Friday.
Note: An earlier version of the published story incorrectly referred to the Rochester Century mascot as a cougar. It has been corrected.