A four-game losing streak. No victories in October. Minnetonka's football team heard the doubters.
"Everyone was saying Minnetonka was done," quarterback Nick Rooney said.
The Skippers, last-second losers at Hopkins in the regular- season finale, dominated throughout a 35-14 victory in the rematch. Winning Friday in the first round of Class 6A, Section 6 sends Minnetonka (4-5) to Maple Grove (9-0) on Nov. 2 for the crossover game with Section 5.
Rooney played his best game of the season, completing 11 of 12 passes and rushing for three touchdowns.
"He made big throws, and he led the offense well," Skippers coach Dave Nelson said.
Rooney's third touchdown run and a two-point conversion pass gave Minnetonka a 35-14 lead with 4 minutes, 9 seconds to play in the fourth quarter.
The Skippers went up 27-14 in the third quarter when Ian Cote took the inside handoff and broke loose for a touchdown on fourth-and-1 at the Hopkins 13.
But even Rooney gave a nod to the inspired defensive performance. The Skippers retooled defense resembled the scheme Wayzata runs to perfection -- few down linemen, several players bobbing and weaving near the line of scrimmage, creating confusion to set up blitzes from various angles.
"That crazy defense, Belichick-style, I love it," Rooney said.
The new scheme rendered Hopkins quarterback J.T. DenHartog, who passed for 243 yards and ran for 181 more in Hopkins' 36-34 regular-season finale victory, much less effective.
"Our defensive staff thought it would give us an advantage," Nelson said. "We're not too big up front so we wanted to put guys in position to use their abilities and make plays."
The first of Rooney's two 1-yard touchdowns runs put Minnetonka ahead 21-14 at 8:45 of the third quarter. He started the scoring drive with a 30-yard pass to Axel Twenge.
Three touchdowns were scored during the second quarter with Minnetonka getting the first two. KeAndre Singleton's 5-yard touchdown run tied the score 7-7 and Rooney's 1-yard sneak put the Skippers ahead 14-7.
Tight end Alex Garigaldi set the table with a 33-yard catch on fourth down from Rooney to the Hopkins 1.
Hopkins answered with a 27-yard touchdown pass from DenHartog to Terrance Bowers, tying the score 14-14 with 2:21 remaining before halftime.