Class 5A: Relentless Totino-Grace makes final

  • Article by: JIM PAULSEN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 18, 2012 - 12:08 AM

While Bemidji made no headway against the Eagles defense, A.J. LaPanta burned the Lumberjacks for three TD passes.

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Watching No. 1-ranked Totino-Grace operate is a bit like watching winter arrive.

It's coming, taking its time but never stopping. It will eventually take over and there is nothing that can be done to stop it.

Such was the Eagles' 23-0 victory over Bemidji in Saturday's Class 5A semifinals. The defense set the tone, making Bemidji work for every yard. The offense, with a slew of running backs who never move backward, had its moments. And, just when it seemed like the Eagles might be vulnerable, they rose up and smacked the upstarts in the mouth.

"That's the way this team plays," senior nose tackle Joey Schiller said. "We have total confidence in each other. Someone is going to make the play when we need it."

Totino-Grace scored first on a 27-yard field goal by Jackson Richards on its opening drive.

Bemidji, which shocked then-No. 1 Mankato West in the 2011 Class 4A semifinals, tried to match the Eagles, but an exhausting 11-play drive that reached midfield came apart when Totino-Grace defensive back Carlton Djam picked off Bemidji quarterback James Hendricks and returned the ball to the Bemidji 30. Two plays later, Eagles quarterback A.J. LaPanta hit Charlie Miller for a 22-yard touchdown.

Just like that, Totino-Grace led by 10 points. And the way the Eagles' defense was playing, it might as well have been 100.

"We were really physical," Eagles coach Jeff Ferguson said. "I mean, you saw it. There were guys flying all over."

If the game harbored any doubt, that was removed on the Eagles' opening drive of the second half. Moving relentlessly downfield, LaPanta found Miller for a 5-yard touchdown pass and a 17-0 lead. The drive that sent a message to Bemidji that the second half would be just as difficult at the first.

"We're not a big-strike team," Ferguson said. "We don't have a guy that can go the distance a bunch of times. We take chunks of the field."

The Lumberjacks would struggle to reach midfield -- they didn't cross the Totino-Grace 40-yard line until late in the fourth quarter -- only to be knocked back and have to start over again.

The Eagles (12-0) put the game out of reach -- as if it wasn't already -- when LaPanta threw his third touchdown pass, a 54-yard strike to sophomore Lance Benick at the start of the fourth quarter. Bemidji mounted one last drive, but Totino-Grace turned them back on the 3, shutout intact.

"It's great watching the defense play," LaPanta said. "If we don't make a ton of mistakes, they'll win us ballgames. And they have this year."

  • CLASS 5A TOTINO-GRACE 23, BEMIDJI 0
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Houston 1 FINAL
Miami 1
Philadelphia 1 FINAL
Minnesota 7
St. Louis 3 FINAL
Detroit 4
Baltimore - WP: T. Wilson 10 FINAL
NY Yankees - LP: S. Baker 2
Boston 9 FINAL
Tampa Bay 6
Toronto 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 8
Atlanta 5 FINAL
Toronto 3
Washington 2 FINAL
NY Mets 10
Chicago Cubs 5 FINAL
Cincinnati 9
San Diego 3 FINAL
Texas 2
San Francisco 9 FINAL
Seattle 8
Colorado 4 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 18
Cleveland 3 FINAL
Milwaukee 2
Oakland 10 FINAL
Chicago WSox 4
Los Angeles 5 FINAL
LA Angels 4
Kansas City 10 FINAL
Arizona 5
Atlanta 95 4th Qtr 3:10
Charlotte 110
New York 34 3rd Qtr
Chicago 54
Golden State 21 1st Qtr 1:20
Milwaukee 21
Oklahoma City 8:00 PM
Utah
Denver 9:00 PM
Portland
Nashville 4 FINAL
Washington 3
Arizona 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
San Jose 3 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 2
Anaheim 3 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
NY Rangers 2 FINAL
Boston 4
Tampa Bay 0 FINAL
Detroit 4
New Jersey 1 3rd Prd 13:39
Carolina 3
Florida 2 3rd Prd
Montreal 2
Ottawa 2 3rd Prd 16:27
Toronto 0
Los Angeles 1 2nd Prd 15:50
Minnesota 2
Columbus 1 2nd Prd 14:48
St. Louis 1
Buffalo 0 1st Prd 19:32
Colorado 0
Dallas 9:00 PM
Vancouver
Arizona 78 FINAL
Wisconsin 85
Canisius 60 2nd Half 6:05
NJIT 54
Notre Dame 15 1st Half 11:02
Kentucky 14
San Jose 1 FINAL
New England 2
Orlando City 2 FINAL
Montreal 2
Los Angeles 0 FINAL
D.C. 1
Sporting Kansas City 1 FINAL
New York City 0
Red Bull New York 2 2nd Half 21:00
Columbus 1
Portland 0 2nd Half
Vancouver FC 1
Colorado 0 1st Half 15:00
Houston 0
Seattle 0 1st Half 15:00
FC Dallas 0
Texas 54 FINAL
(1) Connecticut 105
Dayton 82 FINAL
(8) Louisville 66
(16) Duke 55 FINAL
(4) Maryland 65
Gonzaga 65 1st OT 4:14
(6) Tennessee 63

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