For just over 45 minutes, the Class 5A state championship game was a tightly woven knot of defense, with few offensive highlights to speak of.
For the last 2:53, the controlled game turned chaotic.
Chaska put together a frantic 80-yard drive in 10 plays, getting a 1-yard touchdown run by Stevo Klotz with 42 seconds left, and emerged with a 10-7 victory over St. Thomas Academy.
"Wow. Exciting game. Good finish," Chaska coach Bryan Dahl said. "Proud of our guys for sticking in there."
Until that fateful drive, Chaska (12-1) had done little offensively. Fortunately for the Hawks, St. Thomas Academy (11-2) could say the same.
"If you love defensive football, that was a fantastic game today," St. Thomas Academy coach Dan O'Brien said. "Both defenses were outstanding.''
Trailing 7-3, Chaska took over at its 20. Quarterback Griff Wirtz, who had completed just three passes in the game to that point, completed three passes for 53 yards on the drive. Chaska also benefited from three penalties to get into position to score — two pass interference calls and a targeting call at the St. Thomas Academy 5-yard line.
Klotz powered into the end zone three plays later.
"We talked that we had one more drive left for a state championship," Wirtz said. "One more drive for our dream to come true. We all just relied on each other and trusted everybody."
With both teams' strong reputations for stopping their foes, it was no surprise that the defenses controlled play throughout the first half.
The Hawks managed a 42-yard field goal by Nic Snuggerud to take a 3-0 lead.
Then a misplayed punt cost Chaska. The Hawks let a punt roll dead at their 3-yard line, costing them valuable field position and putting them at a disadvantage they couldn't recover from.
St. Thomas Academy started its next two possessions well into Chaska territory. The Hawks pushed the Cadets backward the first time, But the next time St. Thomas Academy got the ball, it was at the Chaska 32 midway through the second quarter.
The Cadets' offense finally started moving, highlighted by a 19-yard run by Love Adebayo, their biggest gain of the game. Six plays later, quarterback Baker Reding sneaked over from 1 yard out, giving St. Thomas Academy a 7-3 lead with just 38 seconds left in the half.
"We knew it was going to be tight game," Dahl said. "We knew turnovers, we knew field position was important. It was tough going into the locker room because you feel like you're playing OK, but we just couldn't get anything going."
St. Thomas Academy had a chance to build its lead in the third quarter, but a 12-play drive that took 7:24 seconds off the clock wound up fruitless when Cadets running back Danny McFadden was dropped for a loss on fourth-and-4.
"We made a play to get off the field, and that was huge for momentum," Dahl said.