The Chanhassen defense has been solid all season, but with an offense loaded with big-play athletes, defenders have gone about their job quietly, content in their supporting role.
The Storm defenders got their big chance on Saturday as understudies seizing their moment when the star of the show sputtered. They shut down Chaska, holding the Hawks to just a field goal until the game was secured, in a 27-11 victory in the Class 5A, Section 2 semifinals at Chanhassen.
"We knew we had to come out and play tough," senior linebacker Garrett Solie said. "We went out to play lockdown defense and we did that."
Chanhassen (9-0) has been a team accustomed to fast starts and big early leads. So it was a shock to most everyone, with the possible exception of the Chaska sideline, that the Hawks held a 3-0 lead well into the second quarter.
"We've been quick starters all year," Storm coach Mike Bailey said. "We always think we're the only ones who can stop ourselves, and in the first quarter, we couldn't stay out of our own way. And a big part of that was Chaska."
While the offense was fumbling in the dark for its keys, the defense was shutting down Chaska. The Hawks gained 42 yards on an opening drive that resulted in a 21-yard field goal, then just 72 total yards until the game's final minutes, when the Storm emptied its bench.
"We knew it would be a slugfest," Chanhassen senior cornerback Henry Weisman said. "It was raining, so we knew it might be a defensive game. The defense has the offense's back."
The offense found its rhythm midway through the second quarter. Spillum carried the ball on three consecutive plays, scoring on a 24-yard run. "That got us going," he said.
The Storm put the game away in the third quarter. Spillum scored again, breaking free on a keeper up the middle and using his speed to outrace the Chaska defense to the end zone on a 65-yard run. Eddie Odanga barged over from 5 yards out on the next drive. Suddenly, Chanhassen led 20-3 and Storm fans could take a breath.
"We're not used to that," Spillum said. "You won't see that in the next game. We'll come, ready to play our 'A' game."
That next game will be the one of the biggest in team history. Chanhassen will host Mankato West on Friday in the Section 2 final, with the winner earning a state tournament berth.