After pulling out back-to-back close victories over high-quality teams, the Champlin Park Rebels have something to say.
"We think we should be in the conversation of the best teams in the state," quarterback Jaice Miller said.
After outlasting Totino-Grace 12-7 on Friday, one week after a three-point victory at Rosemount, it's hard to argue otherwise.
"We've proved that we can play with anybody," Champlin Park coach Nick Keenan said.
The Rebels (6-1) parlayed two long passes from Miller to wide receiver Brock Johnson into just enough offense to back a defense that stood up to Totino-Grace's relentless rushing attack. The Rebels bent under the Eagles' pressure, but stood firm when they needed to, stopping their opponent on downs twice deep in their own territory in the second half.
"We were without our leading tackler [linebacker Obi Evuleocha], who was injured last week, so that cost us a little bit with their running game, but these kids pushed through adversity," Keenan said. "I'm just so happy for them."
With Totino-Grace (5-2) stacking the defense to shut down Champlin Park running back Shawn Shipman, the Rebels took to the air for the game's first touchdown.
Miller found Johnson on a crossing pattern over the middle. Johnson reached back, hauled in the pass with one hand and never broke stride, outracing defenders for a 64-yard touchdown and a 6-0 lead.
The teams spent the rest of the first quarter and the early part of the second battling for field position. That tussle played a key role in Totino-Grace's only touchdown.
After being pinned down deep in their own territory, a short punt by the Rebels gave the Eagles a first down at the Champlin Park 21. Four plays later, Totino-Grace running back Deezwin Cooper scooted untouched up the middle for a 9-yard touchdown and a 7-6 lead.
Champlin Park struggled to move the ball in the second half but made the right plays when it had to.
With less than three minutes left in the game and his team trailing by a point, Miller threw a 42-yard rainbow toward Johnson, who caught the ball in between two defenders at the Totino-Grace 1.
"He's been making big plays for us all season," Miller said. "I trust him in that moment."
After two running plays lost a yard, Miller, who played much of the game with a dislocated finger on his throwing hand, put the game on his shoulders.
"On the sideline, I said to our offensive coordinator, 'Give me the ball. I'll run it in,' " Miller said.
He dived over from 2 yards out with 1:27 left in the fourth quarter for the game-winning touchdown, ending the Eagles' five-game winning streak.
"We've had experience with close games this year," Miller said. "We were ready to take that moment on."