Hindsight being what it is, it should have been easy to see this coming.

Elk River's 56-0 rout of Class 5A defending champion St. Michael-Albertville on Friday is the type of result that would normally leave observers shaking their heads in disbelief. Defending state champions just do not lose by 50-plus points.

"I didn't see this result coming," St. Michael-Albertville coach Jared Essler said.

But signs were there. Elk River had defeated St. Michael-Albertville 43-6 during the regular season, the victory that boosted the Elks to the No. 1 ranking in Class 5A. The Elks' deceptive wing-T option, always difficult to stop, was humming. The defense, the weak spot in previous seasons, was making a name for itself. And the game was played on artificial turf at Buffalo, an added advantage.

"Things get so congested inside, we need good footing to move people," Elks coach Steve Hamilton said.

Celebrating its 125th year of prep football, Elk River left no doubt from the outset: St. Michael-Albertville would find no redemption for the earlier loss.

The Elks scored a touchdown on their opening drive, then quickly added one on a blocked punt return by Cam Cotton. They put up 290 yards of total offense and a 35-0 lead by halftime. The second half was just a matter of setting the final score.

Elk River's hard-nosed captain Sam Gibas said he thought a rout might happen. "Nobody thought that, but I did because we work," Gibas said.

Hamilton, who previously coached in Georgia and Michigan, said: "This is the best team I've ever coached. Anywhere."

Jim Paulsen