Osseo has heard it all. The Orioles are too small, they have no depth, their style of play isn't conducive to winning in November.
They've heard it all, and yet, after rallying from a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit to defeat Totino-Grace 22-21, it's the Orioles who remain standing, poised to play in next week's Prep Bowl.
"These guys have heard it all before and it doesn't matter to them," Osseo coach Derrin Lamker said. "They just go out and play football and they don't stop until the game is over."
Of all of Osseo's strengths, perhaps its most important is resiliency. The team lost three consecutive games midway through the regular season, including a 35-14 loss to Totino-Grace. Many wrote off the Orioles.
The Orioles (9-3) were down by two scores Thursday and staring at a fourth-and-10 from their own 35-yard line with 10 minutes left in the game. A punt there and Totino-Grace (9-3) would have the chance to run out the game.
Realizing his team's season hung by a shoelace, Lamker made a crucial gamble. He called for a fake punt, which worked when Malik Gaillard, who also punts for the Orioles, completed a pass to receiver Damario Armstrong for a 12-yard gain and a first down.
"I thought we might do that," said Armstrong. "We had to."
Osseo scored nine plays later on a 4-yard run by Prince Kruah, cutting the Eagles' lead to 21-14. The Orioles defense then did its part, forcing a three-and-out. Osseo got the ball back with 6 minutes left when Lamker pulled out another unexpected surprise.
On third-and-7, he called for Nash Jensen, a 6-4, 320-pounder who was switched from tackle to tight end two weeks ago. Noticing Jensen was running free on previous plays, he had Gaillard pass to him in the seam down the middle of the field. The big tight end ran for 43 yards, setting up Osseo's game-winning touchdown.
"Jensen, he's an incredible athlete," Gaillard said. "He's big, he's strong and he can run."
Osseo punched it over on a 1-yard sneak by Gaillard with 2:10 left. Lamker then chose to go for a two-point conversion and the victory.
He gave the ball to Kruah, his workhorse all night, who swept right and fought through a maze of Totino-Grace defenders to reach the end zone.
"I knew it was going to be tough, so I ran harder than I've ever run before," Kruah said.
After the victory, Osseo players and fans swarmed the field in celebration of the team's biggest victory since the advent of the Prep Bowl.
"We never doubted ourselves," Gaillard said. "We put in so much work and never stopped believing."