The quickness and athleticism of Minneapolis North is no secret. Wabasso coach Joe Kemp knew what North's strengths were and thought the Rabbits had an answer.
But seeing it on video and experiencing it in person are different things altogether.
North's defense made the Rabbits look lethargic and carried the Polars to a 16-8 victory over Wabasso in the Class 1A football semifinals. North (12-0) will play in the Prep Bowl for the second consecutive year.
"Their defensive line was more physical than we had seen on film," Kemp said. "We didn't look like it today, but we are an extremely fast team. But North was at a whole 'nother level today."
The defense, with Nate Wheeler, Odell Wilson and Phil Scott controlling the line of scrimmage and linebacker Jamire Jackson cleaning up behind them, allowed Wabasso just 193 yards of total offense.
"People criticize us for playing in [Class] 1A, but you have to understand, 1A is physical, tough football with some big boys," North coach Charles Adams said. "We have to be physical and tough on the front line to be able to compete."
The Polars moved the ball with few problems, but mistakes hurt them when they neared the goal line. Isaac Johnson caught a 6-yard slant for a touchdown in the first half, and Jamin Smith squirted through a hole for a 12-yard score in the second half. Quarterback Zeke Rodgers had three passes picked off in Wabasso territory.
"Sometimes you have those days," Rodgers said. "I'm glad we got those out of the way in this game instead of the championship game."
North running back Kehyan Porter rushed for 118 yards and Smith added 79 for North, which rolled up 378 total yards.
Wabasso got the ball back with 1:31 left and threatened to tie the score. The Rabbits reached the North 44 before Nick Altermatt's pass was picked off by Taylor Johnson at the North 11 to end the threat.