For two teams with state championships hopes, DeLaSalle and St. Croix Lutheran spent Friday evening cramming a season's worth of mistakes into a single game.
In the end, the No. 1, Class 4A Islanders, behind backup quarterback Billy Hart, rallied to defeat the defending Class 3A champion Crusaders 35-28 in a game more about who wanted to give it away less.
"That was crazy," said DeLaSalle coach Sean McMenomy. "That was a high school football game. These are kids and they make mistakes. I don't have to like it, but they found a way to get the job done."
DeLaSalle took a quick 13-0 lead thanks to two St. Croix Lutheran fumbles on its first two possessions.
Gevelve Gandy scored on a 30-yard fumble return on the third play from scrimmage for a 7-0 lead. The next fumble led to a 7-yard scoring pass from Reid Travis to James Lawson with just 4 minutes gone in the first quarter.
Having done all the taking, DeLaSalle began to repay the favors. A muffed punt led to a Jackson Goplen 20-yard touchdown run. A fumbled snap in the end zone that was recovered by St. Croix Lutheran's Tyler Bryant turned that lead into a 14-13 deficit. A Lincoln Hochmuth 17-yard rushing touchdown gave the Crusaders a 20-13 halftime lead.
An act of frustration and the loss of its most heralded player seemed to bring DeLaSalle to life. Travis was called for throwing a punch against an attacking St. Croix Lutheran defender and was tossed from the game in the third quarter.
Sophomore Billy Hart took over at quarterback and the Islanders rallied with a 63-yard touchdown run by Chris Williams and a 70-yard scoring pass from Hart to Aaron Warren.
"Reid plays basketball all summer, so you saw the kid who takes all the snaps when he's gone," McMenomy said. "He's a great kid, and the team pulled together behind him."
St. Croix Lutheran battled back to take a 28-27 lead on Hochmuth's 9-yard pass to Cody Sticha and Goplen's two-point conversion, run, but DeLaSalle responded. Hart found Jareid Combs for a 53-yard touchdown pass with 2:31 left. Then they combined for the two-point conversion.
"I told our guys we battled, but we deserved to lose because we made too many mistakes," St. Croix Lutheran coach Carl Lemke said of his team, which fumbled 10 times, losing three. "DeLaSalle is so athletic. We couldn't afford to give them anything."