The first half was a Champlin Park party. The second? An exercise in survival.
The Rebels rode a terrific first-half offensive performance and leaned on its defense after halftime, emerging with a 31-21 victory over defending Class 6A champion Lakeville North on Thursday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
After doing nearly anything they wanted to in the game's first 24 minutes, building a 21-point lead, the Rebels found themselves trying desperately to hang on to their big lead in the second half.
"Our offense has been playing lights out," Champlin Park coach Nick Keenan said.
Lakeville North cut the lead to a single touchdown, 21-14, on a 10-yard burst by RaJa Nelson midway through the third quarter, putting a once-secure outcome in doubt.
"I told the guys, 'They're here for a reason, too,' " Keenan said. "They've got some good players."
Lakeville North coach Brian Vossen said: "We thought we were going to win. I think every guy on our team thought we were going to tie this thing, then punch one in and move. My biggest surprise was when that didn't happen."
Champlin Park's first six possessions of the second half included five three-and-outs and an interception.
"I was really stressed that we kept getting behind the chains," Rebels quarterback Jaice Miller said.
The Rebels finally cracked the Lakeville North defense midway through the fourth quarter. Noah Vogelpohl capped a short drive with a 32-yard field goal, and shortly thereafter, Miller burst through the line and scored on a 41-yard run, giving Rebels fans a reason to exhale.
"When we kicked that field goal and we went up 10 points, we felt pretty good," Keenan said.
Champlin Park (10-1) opened the game doing just about everything right. Miller hit Brock Johnson over the middle for a 56-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead on their second possession.
A fumble by Lakeville North's Logan Freeberg sparked the Rebels' next score. Miller drove them 81 yards on seven plays, converting a third-and-21 to get them to the Lakeville North 3. Miller dived over for a touchdown on the next play, giving Champlin Park a 14-0 advantage.
"We were getting everything we wanted," Miller said.
After a Lakeville North punt, Champlin Park put together its most impressive drive of the half. Miller drove them 80 yards in 13 plays with Shawn Shipman slicing 10 yards for another Champlin Park touchdown.
Lakeville North (10-2) responded quickly. Nelson took them on a four-play, 59-yard drive that took just 39 seconds. It ended with a 14-yard touchdown by Nelson to cut the Champlin Park lead to 21-7 at halftime.
Miller's first-half stats were superb. He completed 17 of 25 passes for 275 yards and a touchdown. He finished with 277 passing yards, a testament to Lakeville North's stingy defense was after halftime.