Expectations met reality Friday as Cretin-Derham Hall hosted Mounds View in what was billed as a clash of Suburban East Conference titans.
But what many hoped would be the game of the year on the east side of the Mississippi River turned into a morass of mistakes, penalties and missed opportunities.
Mounds View made fewer errors and eked out a 17-16 victory.
It was Mounds View's first regular-season victory over Cretin-Derham Hall since joining the Suburban East. The Mustangs' only other victory over the Raiders was in the 2010 Class 5A quarterfinals.
"We did our best to screw things up -- even us coaches,'' Mounds View coach Jim Galvin said. "But our kids just kept battling and we pulled it out."
For the first half, each team appeared remarkably generous. A bad snap on a punt by Cretin-Derham Hall on its first possession led to a safety and a 2-0 Mounds View advantage.
Two possessions later, Cretin-Derham Hall's James Onwualu burst up the middle for a 5-yard touchdown run. It capped a 63-yard drive, kept alive by a 12-yard run by Blake Banham on third-and-11.
Mounds View responded with an eight-play, 52-yard drive that began with an excessive celebration penalty on Onwualu and ended with a 1-yard run by T.J. Horn. Mustangs quarterback Mitch Fredrickson added a two-point conversion and Mounds View led 10-7.
Cretin-Derham Hall looked poised to regain the lead midway through the second quarter, advancing to the Mounds View 9. But the Raiders, beset by penalties, settled for a 31-yard field goal and a 10-10 tie.
Mounds View was poised to take a halftime lead, but a 27-yard field goal attempt by Alec Tolson with 21 seconds left was blocked.
In the second half, Mounds View scored on a picture-perfect 61-yard pass from Fredrickson to Max Knutson on its third play from scrimmage for a 17-10 lead.
"Our daubers were down, especially after missing that field goal, but getting that touchdown was a real shot in the arm for our guys," Galvin said.
Cretin-Derham Hall operated in fits and spurts for most of the game, largely because of Mounds View's defensive front. The Raiders pulled within 17-16 on Onwualu's second scoring run of the game, a 19-yarder with 4:30 left in the game.
But the Raiders botched the extra point. They had one more possession, but four consecutive incomplete passes ended their chances.
"We never gave up," said Mounds View defensive tackle Mick Nelson, who had spent much of the game harassing Cretin quarterback Conor Rhoda. "That's what we're all about. We stayed with them, punch for punch."