Stillwater began its semifinal game against Duluth East by doing something it had not done in a month — allowing a goal.
The Ponies regrouped, however, scoring four second-half goals in a 5-1 victory Monday at U.S. Bank Stadium. The defending Class 2A boys' soccer state champion returns to the title game, once again to face Wayzata at 3 p.m. Thursday.
Seth Hoffman gave No. 3 seed Duluth East (19-2) a 1-0 lead just 25 seconds into the game, converting on a penalty kick and providing the underdog Greyhounds a jolt.
"If there's a positive to come out of something like that, it's that it was 25 seconds into the game," Stillwater coach Jake Smothers said. "It gave us plenty of time to recover."
No. 2 seed Stillwater (18-1-2) drew even on Jorge Malon's goal in the 13th minute and was tied at halftime.
Exploiting what Smothers diagnosed as gaps on the right side of the Duluth East defense, Stillwater pumped in four goals in a little more than 13 minutes. Goals from Max Stauffer, Maxwell Timmons, Jack Boucher and Spencer Scott turned a close game into a rout.
"We've been a second half team all year but it backfired this time," Hoffman said. "They scored first and it just kept rolling."
Wayzata 6, Maple Grove 2: Making things difficult for opponents, whether with the ball or without, drove the Trojans all season.
An undefeated record and second consecutive Class 2A state title game appearance were byproducts of their daily mission.
First-half goals from Walter Smith and Stuart Sain put Wayzata (19-0-2) ahead 2-0 at halftime. No. 4 seed Maple Grove (16-2-2) cut the deficit to 2-1 as Jack Gleckler headed a corner kick home in the 46th minute.
The Crimson, which scored three or more goals in five of its past six games, felt poised to rally.
"We had a lot of momentum at that point, and I thought that would be a good start to a comeback," Gleckler said. "I had high hopes."
But 39 seconds later, as the final celebratory notes poured out of the Maple Grove band, Wayzata's Sadra Golzarian restored the Trojans' two-goal lead.
"At halftime we talked about how important it was for us to get the third goal and if we did, it would basically be game over," Golzarian said.
The goal "definitely killed us," Crimson coach Greg Leininger said.
Patrick Weah added a Wayzata goal three minutes later and the Trojans never looked back.