Back in August, before a game had been played, Lakeville North coach Brian Vossen knew that this was the year. If a championship was going to happen, this was the group to do it.
The Panthers made Vossen's premonition a reality Friday, getting unexpected offense in the first half and a stout performance from the defense in the second to beat defending champion Eden Prairie 28-21 in the Class 6A championship game.
"I knew this season something special was going to happen," Vossen said. "I knew this was ours. Today was maybe the first game in a long time that I didn't have any nerves."
The Panthers gave up more big plays than expected, and even trailed 21-14 late in the first half, before settling down and playing the final two-plus quarters in a manner to which Vossen and his players had become accustomed.
The first half was remarkably entertaining for two teams not known for offensive fireworks.
Eden Prairie struck first. Lake-ville North running back Brian Curtis Jr. fumbled on the Panthers' second play from scrimmage and the Eagles took over at the Lake- ville North 49.
Two plays later, quarterback Cole Kramer hit Daejon Wolfe-Brusehaver for a 49-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
Lakeville North responded with a 65-yard, 12-play drive, capped by a 5-yard dart around right end by RaJa Nelson, tying the game 7-7.
Soon after, Panthers quarterback Brennan Kuebler showed off an arm that had been kept under wraps for most of the playoffs — he'd only thrown 13 passes in four previous postseason games — throwing a perfectly placed deep ball to Keaton Mohs for a 73-yard score and a 14-7 Lakeville North lead.
Eden Prairie answered with its own 65-yard scoring drive, tying the game on a short run by Felipe Izumi, and took the lead the next time it had the ball when Jordan Amundson burst off right tackle and outraced the Lakeville North defense for a 80-yard touchdown and a 21-14 advantage.
"They mostly got all of their points off big plays. We just had to limit big plays," said defensive end Will Mostaert, half of the chaos-raising duo, along with brother Eli, that Vossen called "our infamous twins."
Perhaps the game's biggest play came late in the first half. Trailing by a touchdown with halftime less than two minutes away, Lakeville North halfback Brian Curtis launched a 48-yard halfback pass to Nelson to the Eden Prairie 3-yard line. Two plays later, Nelson scored, tying the game 21-21 at the intermission.
"We gave up two long passes," Eden Prairie coach Mike Grant said. "If we don't give up those, we win the game."
Lakeville North took the lead for good in the second half on Nelson's third touchdown, this time from 10 yards out, and then leaned on defense the rest of the way.
"Aside from my two kids being born and marrying my wife, I don't know if I've ever experienced anything that's more exciting than this," Vossen said. "I'm so proud of these players."