Fourth down. Four yards to go for upset-minded Lakeville South inside Woodbury’s red zone with less than two minutes left.
Convert and run out the clock? Cougars senior running back Jared Stewart had bigger plans.
“I was thinking touchdown,” Stewart said. “I’m always thinking touchdown.”
The 5-9, 220-pound Stewart barreled left for 18 yards and the clinching score in the Cougars’ 28-14 victory over No. 1 seed Woodbury on Friday at Osseo High School in the Class 6A quarterfinals.
Not bad for a Cougars team that started Friday’s game with a .500 record.
“We came in as prepared as possible,” Stewart said. “We worked hard all week. We watched film, we’re still lifting and doing things that other teams aren’t doing.”
The reward for the Cougars (6-5) is a rematch with crosstown foe and top-ranked Lakeville North next week on the state’s biggest football stage.
The Panthers won the teams’ Week 4 meeting 28-3.
“We want North,” Stewart said. “It’s going to be an exciting game playing in U.S. Bank Stadium. Big rivalry game.”
The Cougars’ power-T formation and misdirection running game proved baffling to Woodbury’s typically stout run defense.
Tavian Laden put the Cougars ahead on a 40-yard touchdown run. He set up the next score with a 70-yard burst to the Woodbury 2-yard line.
Stewart crossed the goal line for a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter.
Woodbury (9-2) cut its deficit to 14-7 on Brock Rinehart’s 13-yard touchdown run.
But Lakeville South roared back on a 55-yard touchdown dash by Johnny Shabaz and led 20-7 at halftime.
“They’ve perfected their craft,” Woodbury coach Andy Hill said. “When we were perfect on defense, we got stops.
“When we weren’t because we got caught looking or missed a tackle, they turned it into big plays.”
Woodbury’s Zach Ames started at quarterback because Charlie Wilson suffered a broken clavicle last week against Wayzata.
Ames scored on a 1-yard run and Woodbury cut its deficit to 20-14 in the fourth quarter.
But Stewart, who also plays linebacker, and the Cougars defense did not let the Royals get closer.
“We talked at halftime about how the defense was going to have to keep us in the game,” said Stewart, who sealed the outcome with his second touchdown run.