Mahnomen withstood a fourth-quarter comeback by Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City to keep its record perfect with a 26-20 victory Saturday at the Metrodome, advancing to the Class 1A final.
"It was a game of quarters," Mahnomen head coach John Clark, Jr. said. "We had a lot of mental mistakes today, but good teams make you make mistakes. I thought our kids handled it well."
Packed in the close final score were several nail-bitting moments for Mahnomen. The Indians trailed for the first time this year, and survived a close call in the game's final minutes. A-C-GC had scored on a 46-yard pass from Dylan Hoerchler to Lee Whitcomb, then forced a punt and scored again on a 2-yard run from Jordan Nelson.
With the deficit down to one possession, Mahnomen then fumbled for the fifth time in the game. But a third-and-10 pass was batted into the air and picked off by the Indians' Nick Otto to seal the victory.
The Indians move on with redemption on their minds, having fallen short in last year's championship game.
"Our kids expected to be back," Clark, Jr. said. "It was a goal of ours."
Trevor Haugo ran the opening kickoff 73 yards for a Mahnomen score, but the Indians' offense was plagued by stalled drives and botched snaps in the first quarter. The Falcons, aided by shoddy Mahnomen defense, took a temporary lead, but A-C-GC fumbled a punt return on the first play of the second quarter.
"We ran the opening kickoff back," Clark, Jr. said, "and we got too jacked up over that. We used up a lot of energy celebrating."
Long passes set up long scoring runs for the Indians. Mahnomen completed just three passes but ran for 215 yards. Hoerchler led the Falcons by passing for 140 yards and one score.