It was supposed to be a warmup. Cretin-Derham Hall, its offense clicking in recent games, appeared poised to make a deep run into the Class 6A playoffs. First-round opponent Woodbury was just an appetizer.
Nobody told the Royals.
With running back Quaran Al-Hameed back after missing four games because of a leg injury, Woodbury proved more formidable than anyone expected, pulling off a 21-14 upset at O'Shaughnessy Stadium at the University of St. Thomas.
"Man, it feels like my whole life has come down to this," said Al-Hameed, who had the highlight play of the game, a twisting, tackle-breaking 18-yard run in the second quarter that gave Woodbury a 14-6 lead. "I used to play football with those guys from Cretin when I was growing up. To come out and beat them? It's a great feeling."
Cretin-Derham Hall looked like it meant business on its opening drive, moving smartly downfield and taking a 6-0 lead on a 9-yard pass from Conor Rhoda to Connor Keane. The extra point was missed, but at the time it seemed certain that more points were sure to come.
The Raiders had four more forays into Woodbury territory in the first half, only to come up empty.
With each stop, the Royals' confidence grew. They took the lead 7-6 midway through the second quarter on a 4-yard run by quarterback Sawyer Moon and carried that lead into halftime.
The second half was more of the same. Another Cretin mistake -- a fumble by James Onwualu -- led to Al-Hameed's spectacular touchdown run and a 14-6 lead.
Cretin responded on its next possession with a 1-yard run by Onwualu. A two-point conversion reception by Luke Hamel tied the score 14-14.
Undaunted, Woodbury retook the lead 21-14 when Moon slipped into the end zone from a yard out on fourth down from the Cretin-Derham Hall 1.
The Royals then came up with the biggest stop of the game. The Raiders had driven to the Woodbury 13-yard line in the latter stages of the game but couldn't convert on fourth-and-5.
"I had a feeling something good would happen today," Al-Hameed said. "The regular season doesn't matter anymore. As far as I'm concerned, we're 1-0, baby."