Chasing History: Cardinals run down their first ever state championship

Published 1:27 pm Saturday, November 27, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS – LeRoy-Ostrander senior Chase Johnson is never one to brag, but he did allow himself to crack a smile after he set a Prep Bowl record for total yards Saturday en route to leading the Cardinals to their first ever state title at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Johnson and the Cardinals were as close to perfect as they could be as they stormed past Fertile-Beltrami 55-8 in the Class Nine Man championship.

Johnson laughed to himself when he learned that his 421 total yards were a new Prep Bowl record.

“That’s crazy. Every time I threw the ball, the receivers caught it and my line was making blocks in front of me,” Johnson said. “Everyone on that field gives it their all, every single play, no matter how tired they are. That makes everyone work harder.”

Johnson ran for 272 yards, threw four TDs and ran for another score. He beat the Falcons (13-1 overall) with his arms and legs as he completed three passes of over 25 yards and produced three runs of over 20 yards in the first half alone.

“We were prepared. I don’t know if we can execute any better than that,” L-O head coach Trevor Carrier said. “We had a defensive game plan to take away some of those things that they wanted to do. They completed some out routes, but we made the tackles. On offense, when you have zero punts and 58 points, that’s a good day. We’re state champs, so I guess the answer is yes on that (if we played as close to perfect as could.). We don’t have any more games.”

The Falcons advanced inside L-O’s red zone three times in the first half, but Olson picked off a screen pass to end the first threat and Gavin Sweeney produced a sack on fourth down to stop the second drive. The Falcons finally got on the board when Everett Balstad scored from a yard out to make it 34-8 with 1:06 left in the first half.

The Cardinals had a quick response when Johnson hit Layne Bird on a 55-yard TD pass over the middle with 41 seconds left in the half.

“We practice a one minute drill for 99 yards almost every day,” Carrier said. “Chase thought we could move the safety over on that play and he threw the ball better than he ever had.”

The Cardinals (12-2 overall) opened the scoring when Johnson dropped a dime in the back of the end zone to Tristan Lewison, who hauled it in for a 29-yard TD and making it 7-0. On L-O’s second possession, Johnson weaved the field for a 54-yard TD run that made it 14-0. Lewison caught a pair of TDs and he also picked off a pass.

Things didn’t start well this fall for the Cardinals as starting running back Peyton Roe was lost for the year on the first game of the season. L-O also suffered regular season losses to Grand Meadow and Lanesboro before Olson, a standout lineman, was moved to running back for the final stretch, giving the team a power rusher to balance Johnson’s speed.

Olson ran for 116 yards and three scores.

“This is amazing,” he said. “We worked for it for three of four years.”

L-O had low numbers before the injury to Roe, but it was able overcome more minor injuries to various players, including linemen Memphiz Gomez and Morgan Jasper, to finish strong.

“These guys have all battled injuries. This means a lot for our community. We don’t do this every day, this is the first title in school history,” Carrier said. “We’re proud of it. I wouldn’t trade my 18 guys for another 60 anywhere. They play with all heart.”

The 58 points scored by L-O are the most scored by a team in a nine-man championship game since 1976.

L-O prepared for Saturday’s game by practicing in the Packer Dome in Austin and working on cardio in their pool at L-O High School. The community of L-O helped pay for the practices in the Dome.

SCORING SUMMARY

LeRoy-Ostrander 14  27 14  3  – 58

Fertile-Beltrami 0   8  0   0  –  8

First quarter

(LO) Tristan Lewison 29 pass from Chase Johnson (4 plays, 39 yards) (Sweeney kick) 8:56

(LO) Johnson 54 yard run Sweeney kick) (2 plays, 57 yards)

Second quarter

(LO) Lewison 38 pass from Johnson (Sweeney kick) (5 plays, 69 yards) 11:55

(LO) Tanner Olson 1 run (Sweeney kick) (4 plays, 31 yards) 8:49

(LO) Sweeney 10 pass from Johnson) (pass failed) (8 plays, 69 yards) 4:12

(FB) Everett Balstad 1 run (Van Den Einde from Petry) (11 plays, 60 yards) 1:06

(LO) Layne Bird 55 pass from Johnson (Sweeney kick) (2 plays, 59 yards) :41

Third quarter

(LO) Olson 3 run (Sweeney kick) (11 plays, 68 yards) 6:20

(LO) Olson 36 run (Sweeney kick) (6 plays, 69 yards) :11

Fourth quarter

(LO) Sweeney 23 yard field goal (8 plays, 66 yards) 4:39

LO STATS

Rushing: Chase Johnson, 18-for-272, TD; Tanner Olson, 18-for-116, 3 TDs; Carson Roe, 3-for-14; Layne Bird, 2-for-6; Lewison, 1-for-0

Passing: Chase Johnson, 5-for-6, 140, 4 TDs

Receiving: Tristan Lewison, 2-for-67, 2 TDs; Layne Bird, 2-for-63, TD; Gavin Sweeney, 1-for-10 TD

Defense: Tanner Olson, 1 interception, 1 sack; Tristan Lewison, 11 tackles, 1 interception; Hayden Sass, 1 sack; Gavin Sweeney, 2 sacks; Hayden Sass, 1 fumble recovery

Penalties: 3-for-25