Damario Armstrong should have been gassed. Osseo's spectacular senior wide receiver/defensive back rarely saw the bench in Thursday night's 24-21 over Lakeville North in the Class 6A football quarterfinals.
But barely 10 minutes after the game, he looked like he had barely broken a sweat.
A 6-foot, 190-pound package of smooth, Armstrong was a big-play factory for the Orioles offense. He caught seven passes for 106 yards, many of them by leaping over Lakeville North defenders, including an 8-yard fade for a second-quarter touchdown. Twice they helped the Orioles convert on third-and-very-long.
Once, he tipped a pass over a Lakeville North defender, then caught it for a 15-yard gain. He rushed twice for 26 yards. He even broke up what looked to be a sure Panthers touchdown in the third quarter.
"Who was that No. 21?" asked Lakeville North coach Brian Vossen, referring to Armstrong. "Man, he killed us. Tipping the ball to yourself? Incredible."
For his part, Armstrong was matter-of-fact about his play.
"We knew we needed to make some plays, so I just did want I had to do," he said. "We want to play two more games, so we needed to step up."
Osseo's season of ups and downs was clearly on an upswing Thursday. The Orioles started the season with an impressive victory over Maple Grove, slumped midway through the year, losing three consecutive games while their star running back, Prince Kruah, was injured.
But Kruah has been healthy for the past few weeks and it showed. Running behind Osseo's massive offensive front, Kruah and the Orioles wore down the Panthers defensive line.
That physical dominance paid off for Osseo in the form of an epic fourth-quarter drive. Pinned at their own 2-yard line and leading by three, the Orioles assembled a 14-play, 98-yard scoring drive that took nearly seven minutes. When Kruah scored from 4 yards out to give Osseo a 24-14 lead, only 3:32 remained in the game.
It was more than a drive. It was a message.
"How about that drive?" Osseo coach Derrin Lamker asked. "We've watched the team that plays on this field [Eden Prairie] do that a bunch of times and we thought. 'You know what? We can do that too.' Our kids were fired up and we got after it. Holy cow, what an awesome ending to the game."