Fifty years ago, just about this time of year, Minnesota high school football teams were preparing for the first state tournament. Twenty teams made it in 1972, four each in five classes.
We celebrate now what began then: 50 years of high school football state tournaments in Minnesota.
The tournament has changed shape and size since. Ten years in, they gave the title games a roof, playing them in the Metrodome, and a name, the Prep Bowl. Only the finals of 2014 and 2015 have been played outdoors since, in the stadium on the University of Minnesota campus now known as Huntington Bank Stadium. These days the finals and semifinals are played in U.S. Bank Stadium. This year's semis will be Nov. 17-19 and the finals Dec. 2-3, the title games delayed from their usual Thanksgiving weekend dates because the Vikings have a Thanksgiving night game.
Here's how we party on this milestone anniversary: Every day from today through Dec. 2 we'll publish state tournament memories, quotes, scores, photos. We're starting with last year and counting backward to 1972. We know who won that year; maybe you do, too. Or maybe you'll just check startribune.com every day until you find out.
Look for the words "50 years in the making" 50 times in the next 50 days.
"Does it get any better than this? I don't know." — " LeRoy-Ostrander coach Trevor Carrier
The LeRoy-Ostrander Cardinals were one of four teams — Lakeville South in Class 6A, Dassel-Cokato in 3A and Mayer Lutheran in 1A joining them — to win their first state championship. LeRoy-Ostrander did it with a 58-8 victory over Fertile-Beltrami for the Nine-Man championship.
LeRoy-Ostrander senior quarterback Chase Johnson set a Prep Bowl record for total yards in a game with 412, finishing with 272 rushing and 140 passing while scoring five touchdowns. The Cardinals accumulated 557 total yards and didn't have to punt once, scoring on each of their possessions.
"I don't know if you can execute any better than that, especially on the offensive end," Carrier said.
Lakeville South senior quarterback Camden Dean scored twice, the second time on a 52-yard run with 3:05 to play in a 13-7 victory over Maple Grove; Mayer Lutheran coach Dean Aurich hoisted his first state championship trophy after more than three decades at the school following a 20-14 triumph over perennial power Minneota; and senior running back Eli Gillman ran for 150 yards on 32 carries and scored three touchdowns as Dassel-Cokato outlasted Plainview-Elgin-Millville 28-21.
"It's definitely satisfying to finish the job," Chargers senior linebacker Hayden Hoernemann said.
State championship games
Class 6A: Lakeville South 13, Maple Grove 7
Class 5A: Mankato West 24, Mahtomedi 10
Class 4A: Hutchinson 42, Kasson-Mantorville 14
Class 3A: Dassel-Cokato 28, Plainview-Elgin-Millville 21
Class 2A: Chatfield 14, West Central Area/Ashby 13
Class 1A: Mayer Lutheran 20, Minneota 14
Nine-Man: LeRoy-Ostrander 58, Fertile-Beltrami 8