Watching Minneapolis Washburn line up for a fourth-and-1 on their own 26 with a minute to play, St. Paul Central coach Scott Howell smiled.
If his Minutemen could make a stop, he knew they'd win.
"That was a pretty gutsy move going for it there on fourth down," the coach said through another smile celebrating a 24-21 victory Friday night at home in the annual Twin Cities championship game featuring conference champs from Minneapolis and St. Paul.
The defensive stop with a minute remaining gave Central just enough time to push the ball to the 5-yard line and let its kicker, Gustavo Ortiz, take care of the rest.
For 47 minutes, Washburn running back Jeff Jones did whatever he wanted on the field. He carried the ball 32 times for 158 yards and touchdown. But when the Millers needed his yards most, the Minutemen shut him down.
Reaching out for Jones' legs, junior offensive lineman Arreanno Harris grabbed hold and didn't let go. Jones fell to the ground and the Minutemen were given a chance to extend their title game winning streak against Washburn to three games.
"I wanted him so bad, I even started to cry," Harris said about his defensive stop. "We weren't there mentally in the first half, but we pulled it together."
Central trailed 21-13 with four minutes to play in the game and the ball on its own 10-yard line. The legs of Elijah Campbell and Gabe Walker carried them into Millers territory before quarterback Felix Taylor Jr. connected for his second touchdown to Theo Haslow.
The quick score and a two-point conversion evened things after Central trailed since late in the second quarter.
We did something we hadn't done all year," Howell said. "Survived adversity."
The tone was set for a sloppy first half on the opening kickoff. Campbell fumbled on the return, setting up the Millers' first score of the night.
Breaking the trend of little scoring in its last two trips to the city schools title game, Washburn scored just over a minute into the game. Jones cruised into the end zone on the Millers' fourth play of the game.