Success has danced around the edges of the Prior Lake football team all season, sauntering in closely, then slipping away just as the Lakers reached for it.
So why should Friday's game against Woodbury have been any different?
The Lakers played a terrific first half, then spent the second half acting as if they owed penance for their good fortune and tried to gift-wrap the game for the Royals. Fortunately for them, Woodbury's back story was much the same and Prior Lake sneaked away with a 19-12 victory in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs.
"We made a lot of mistakes, and sometimes, in a playoff game like this, you can't come back from it," said Prior Lake coach Matt Gegenheimer. "So we're pretty fortunate."
Both teams spent the first half looking like the talented outfits predicted at the season's outset.
Woodbury took a 6-0 lead on a 1-yard run by 255-pound fullback Jalen Morrison late in the first quarter. Prior Lake responded 22 seconds later when running back Jordan Johnson sidestepped a tackle and raced 53 yards untouched to the end zone, giving the Lakers a 7-6 lead.
Johnson did it again in the second quarter, going 69 yards for a touchdown and a 14-6 lead. A field goal made it 17-6 before a late 53-yard touchdown reception by Woodbury's Jeremiah Codden cut the Lakers' lead to 17-12 at the break.
Jordan had 139 yards rushing and two touchdowns before halftime. "The best half I've ever had," he said.
In the second half, Prior Lake (5-4) managed a safety in the third quarter and had numerous opportunities but failed to take advantage. The Lakers' last four possessions: fumble, turnover on downs (at the Woodbury 1), fumble, fumble. All ended in deep in Woodbury territory and included a stretch in which they ran seven plays inside the Royals 4-yard line on consecutive drives and came away with no points.
"That's something we're working on," said junior running back/defensive back Preston Jelen, who had one of the fourth-quarter fumbles. "We've lost two games this season in the final minutes and on defense we were saying, 'We are not letting this happen again.' "
Woodbury (4-5) could not do anything with the chances it was given, however, as the Prior Lake defense came to the rescue time and again.
"We had our chances," Royals coach Andy Hill said. "We were right there. Give Prior Lake credit. That was the hardest-hitting team we played all year."