For three quarters Friday, Becker and Minnetonka took turns bumbling, stumbling and fumbling.
But the fourth quarter, while not a thing of beauty, was something to behold.
The two teams combined for 30 points in the final quarter, with the lead changing hands five times, before Minnetonka’s Perry Duff Smith drilled a 32-yard field goal as time ran out to give the Skippers a 25-24 victory.
That Smith had the chance to be the hero was incredible in itself.
Becker, a Class 4A team, had taken a 24-22 lead with 21 seconds left on quarterback Michael Veldman’s third touchdown pass of the game, a 14-yarder to Matt Conzemius. Becker drove 80 yards in less than two minutes, largely because of Veldman’s arm and two Minnetonka penalties that moved them into scoring range.
Veldman finished 23-for-41 for 235 yards and three touchdowns.
“I told him after the game that was the best quarterback play we’ve had here,” Becker coach Dwight Lundeen said. “And I’ve coached a lot of good quarterbacks.”
As good as they were on offense, the Bulldogs (0-1) failed four times on the after-touchdown conversion, keeping the Skippers within striking distance.
Minnetonka (1-1), which plays in Class 6A, took over on its own 35-yard line with 21 seconds left. A pass interference brought them to midfield and a roughing-the-passer infraction put them at the Becker 35.
Skippers quarterback Braden Sikes moved them to the Becker 15 with two sideline completions, setting up Duff Smith’s game-winner.
“We have a saying here at Minnetonka: Next play,” said senior defensive end Bryan Carlton, who finished the game with two sacks and a half-dozen big hits. “We were always saying ‘next play, next play.’ That’s what helped us stay in the game.”
Before the fourth quarter, there was no indication of the barrage to come. Becker held a 12-7 halftime lead on two Veldman-to-Eric Blomgren touchdown passes.
The third quarter was scoreless, setting up the fourth-quarter explosion.
Minnetonka took a 15-12 lead on a 23-yard touchdown burst by Jack Burns. Becker responded to go up 18-15 when C.J. Schwintek rumbled 9 yards for a score. But Minnetonka regained the lead 22-18 on a 48-yard reception by Vance Barnes with 2:04 left, setting up the wild ending.
“It’s all resiliency,” Barnes said. “Our coaches always talk about us having resiliency and having faith. We just had to make a play. My heart was pounding, but we had the determination to come back.”