Jason Williamson wasn't worried. There was no frustration in the mind of Owatonna's superstar halfback, despite having little room to run for the entire first half. Something would open up.
It did, early in the third quarter. With his team trailing by a field goal, Williamson, a senior, took a toss left, sidestepped one tackler, shed two others and raced 71 yards into the end zone, propelling Owatonna to a 14-3 victory over St. Thomas Academy in the Class 5A championship game.
It was the second consecutive state title for Owatonna (13-0) and third since 2013.
"Our running back coach was saying at halftime that I was going to get a big one," Williamson said. "I just trusted that."
Before his long run, Williamson, a Gophers recruit, had been bottled up by a stubborn St. Thomas Academy defense in the first half Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium, putting up just 38 yards rushing.
He'd seen this before, however. Teams were always scheming to stop him. Thing is, not one had done it yet.
"I don't get frustrated," he said. "All the teams game-plan for me. I trusted I was going to break one."
Watching the back of Williamson's jersey as he pulls away from defenders is a thing of beauty, quarterback Solomon Havelka said.
"You think he's down and then he's not," Havelka said. "It gives us all the momentum in the world. It's a relief to have a guy like that back there."
It was something that concerned St. Thomas Academy coach Dan O'Brien at halftime.
"I said, 'Hey, he only needs one. If he gets a seam, he's going to be gone.' " O'Brien said. "Sure enough, that's what happened in the third quarter."
Before Williamson's big run, the anticipated duel between two of the state's top running backs had not materialized. St. Thomas Academy's Brendan McFadden was having an equally rough time, managing just 35 first-half rushing yards.
"We have a lot of confidence in our defense," Owatonna coach Jeff Williams said. "There's been a lot of talk this year about teams we have faced that have great defenses. Few people were talking about ours. Hopefully they will now."
St. Thomas Academy got a field goal on its first possession of the game. The Huskies defense stymied the Cadets after that. They surrendered just 139 yards of total offense, 105 of them from McFadden. They harassed quarterback Charlie Fafinski, who had passed for 197 yards in the semifinals, with four sacks, giving up 60 yards in the air.
St. Thomas Academy had a chance to regain the lead in the fourth quarter. The Cadets drove to the Owatonna 6-yard line, but Fafinski's fourth-down pass sailed over his receiver in the back of the end zone.
Williamson put a cap on the victory a few minutes later. The Huskies regained the ball at midfield after a McFadden fumble. With the Cadets selling out to get the ball back, Williamson slipped through the line and raced in from 44 yards for a touchdown.
Williamson finished with 184 yards on 23 carries in his final high school game.
"This one is going to be a hard one to replace," Williams said, patting Williamson's shoulder.