Owatonna struggled to find consistent momentum against Apple Valley's stout defense in a Class 5A quarterfinal game at Lakeville North High School. But when the pressure was at its highest, Huskies quarterback Abe Havelka delivered two clutch touchdown throws that gave Owatonna a 28-24 victory.
"My job is to stay calm in the pocket. The guys up front do their job, giving me the time to get the ball off, which they did twice," said Havelka, a junior. "The drives we scored on, our offensive line just really gave us momentum."
Owatonna (9-2) trailed Apple Valley 24-21 late in the fourth quarter. On fourth-and-10, Havelka scrambled and fired a deep pass toward the end zone. Junior Alex Raichle came down with the 44-yard reception to give the Huskies the decisive score with just 18 seconds left.
"He's got a very strong arm," Owatonna coach Jeff Williams said of Havelka. "We bought enough time for him to get the receivers down there. To have the receivers run 40 yards down the field into the end zone requires about 4.6 seconds."
Havelka's first clutch play closed out the first half. He and senior receiver Jay Sullivan connected on a 61-yard touchdown pass as time expired, giving the Huskies momentum heading into halftime.
The Eagles (7-4) fought back behind senior quarterback Noah Sanders, who scored two touchdowns. Speedy junior receiver Tyler Cardella made big contributions and senior receiver Mohamed Kone caught a touchdown pass.
But after the Eagles kicked a field goal to take a 24-21 lead with less than a minute left, Havelka stepped up one last time.
"It was unreal. It's just, miracles happen," Havelka said. "I'm so thankful right now. This is the best moment of my life."