Milling around Minnetonka's victorious postgame gathering, a Skippers assistant coach exclaimed, "It's good to be back."
In the simplest context, the coach was talking about Minnetonka's 17-3 upset victory at No. 6 and previously undefeated Maple Grove on Friday. The victory sends the Skippers back to the state tournament for the first time since 2004. Winning also put the Skippers (5-5) back to .500, a rebirth fueled by key players returning to the lineup after injury.
"About 20 things went wrong this season," Minnetonka coach Dave Nelson said. "I'm so proud of the resiliency our kids showed."
Minnetonka took advantage of botched opportunities by Maple Grove (9-1) all game. The Skippers opened up a 10-0 halftime lead with both scoring drives coming after missed Maple Grove field goals.
Brycen Wojta, half of the Crimson's dynamic receiving duo, missed a 39-yard attempt on his team's first drive. Minnetonka responded with a solid drive featuring a 38-yard catch and run by Andre Eubanks and a 32-yard field goal from Perry Smith. The 3-0 lead stood after the first quarter.
A 40-yard catch by Maple Grove's Jake Wieneke moved the Crimson into Minnetonka territory later in the second quarter. But the drive fizzled with a missed 32-yard field goal by Wojta.
Minnetonka's ensuing touchdown drive leaned heavily on tight end Joe Martinson. He caught a 30-yard pass on the drive's first play and took his second catch into Crimson territory. He finished the drive with a 5-yard pass from Nick Rooney with 4:18 to play in the second quarter.
"I was lucky to get the opportunity to score," said Martinson, who missed time this season because of injury.
Wojta made a 27-yard third-quarter field goal, but the Skippers' Ian Cote iced the game with a 31-yard rushing touchdown late in the quarter to make it 17-3. The defense held Maple Grove without a touchdown for the first time this season.
"A lot of teams are losing guys to injury this time of year, but we're gaining guys," said linebacker Michael Redmond, who missed three weeks with an injury. He intercepted a Maple Grove pass in the fourth quarter. "Our thing is, when someone is down, you back them up."