Undefeated Chanhassen and one-loss Andover, the highest-scoring team in Class 5A football, took turns thrilling the U.S. Bank Stadium crowd in Saturday's state tournament semifinal — making a state championship-worthy game something to behold.
The moment wasn't too big for either talented team.
Alas, only Chanhassen, by virtue of a 54-46 overtime victory, will face St. Thomas Academy in the Prep Bowl at 4 p.m. Saturday. But the Huskies demanded a full evening's work to settle the issue.
Sure, each team showed off playmakers. Take your pick. Chanhassen's Maxwell Woods (221 yards rushing and two touchdowns) or Daxton Bush (150 yards receiving and two touchdowns) plus Andover's Chase Pemberton (334 offensive yards and five total touchdowns) and D'Mario Davenport (195 offensive yards and two total touchdowns).
But two players took unlikely leading roles as the game boiled down to the final clutch plays. Andover's Carter Eklund, a soccer player who joined the football team this season at the behest of his friends, converted an onside kick and then finished the bonus drive by booting a field goal from 33 yards out and tying the score 46-46 with 1:42 to play.
"It's a tribute to these guys who talked him into it and supported him the entire way," Andover coach Tom Develice said. "That's why this senior class is special."
In overtime, Chanhassen senior Sam Macy caught a touchdown pass. Macy is a well-known Gophers recruit as a linebacker, but his overtime catch as a tight end was something new.
"That was the first catch of my high school career," Macy said. "It was an important one."
Chanhassen (12-0) got the first crack at scoring in the overtime session. Andover went next, and Pemberton was stopped on fourth down.
There was no stopping either team throughout an eventful first half.
Woods dashed 42 yards on the second play of the game. His quarterback, senior Brayden Windschitl, ran 22 yards for a touchdown and 7-0 lead on a 52-second drive. Andover (10-2) responded as Pemberton completed a 32-yard throw on the first play of the Huskies' opening drive to junior receiver Cameron Begalle. They hooked up again for a 38-yard touchdown to level the game at 7-7 on a drive that took just 63 seconds.
A game of one-upmanship continued. Windschitl found Bush for an 18-yard touchdown catch and restored a 14-7 lead. Pemberton hit senior Luke Dehnicke for a 14-yard touchdown and the Huskies drew even. Kicker Hayden McDaniel split the uprights from 28 yards out and Chanhassen led 17-14.
Woods got the Storm rolling on their next drive with a 59-yard run to move him past the century mark on just his 12th carry. Bush capped the drive running almost the width of the field for a 10-yard touchdown reception and the Chanhassen advantage grew to 24-14 midway through the second quarter.
Then Andover unleashed Davenport. His 58-yard touchdown reception meant the Huskies trailed just 24-21. Chanhassen coughed up the ensuing kickoff and Andover went back to work just 24 yards from the end zone. Davenport made the opportunity count, and the Huskies went ahead 28-24.
That is, until Windschitl reached over a pile of bodies at the goal line for a touchdown and a 31-28 lead with 16 seconds remaining in the first half. Chanhassen wouldn't trail again.
Woods eclipsed the 200-yard rushing mark on a 14-yard touchdown to extend the Storm lead to 38-28 with 3:50 remaining in the third quarter.
Pemberton wouldn't let the Huskies roll over. His 2-yard run for a score cut the Huskies deficit to 38-35 with 1:33 to play in the third quarter. Woods re-established Chanhassen's suffocating grip with an 8-yard touchdown for a 46-35 advantage. Another Pemberton rushing touchdown and two-point conversion brought Andover within a field goal at 46-43.
"You can nitpick little things," Develice said. "But it was both teams fighting the whole time."