Elk River’s defense rose up Friday afternoon in the Zygi Dome and stifled Owatonna superstar Jason Williamson. The Huskies’ tailback didn’t even rush for 200 yards. It was only 199, and five touchdowns, in a 39-8 victory over Elk River in Class 5A semifinals.
OK, the use of “stifled’’ here is relative. Williamson had rushing totals of 441, 447 and 310 in Owatonna’s three previous playoff games, and scored a total of 15 touchdowns — meaning 199 lowered his average on the Huskies’ drive toward a second consecutive state championship.
Owatonna and Williamson put a 63-26 blitz on Elk River in the 2017 Prep Bowl. A year earlier, Elk River defeated Owatonna 19-7 in the semis, with Williamson in a backup role as a sophomore.
As a junior, Williamson rushed for 2,323 yards, scored 42 touchdowns (38 rushing) and was named as Minnesota Gatorade Player of Year. With next week’s Prep Bowl remaining, Williams has rushed for 2,819 yards, scored 45 touchdowns (44 rushing) and will receive all available awards as the state’s player of the year.
Williamson is 6-1 and has upped his weight to 203 pounds. His 40-yard time is 4.65 seconds, and that’s why he has been a two-star recruit with Rivals and is a consensus three-star with 247 Sports.
A tick more speed would be helpful, but not as much as Williamson’s tremendous feet as he reaches traffic, and suddenly defenders are on their heels and he has found an avenue in which to run.
Elk River coach Steve Hamilton said: “He’s so patient.’’ Owatonna coach Jeff Williams praised his “vision.’’
Patience. Vision. Great feet. However you describe this attribute, it was what seemed most phenomenal about Williamson: There would be a couple of Elk River athletes in position to tackle Williamson, and then they weren’t.
Seventy-five seconds into the game, Williamson was in the end zone on a 26-yard run. He finished the next possession with a 44-yard touchdown run. Both times, he did it with a quick outside cut and a dash down the sideline.
Yes, they were dashes. “He’s fast enough,” said his coach, Williams.
Williamson committed to the Gophers way back in mid-December 2017. He will sign next month and then become an early enrollee at the University of Minnesota.
There’s a bit of a sting to the early enrollment for Owatonna. Williamson has been a very good player on the Huskies’ basketball team.
“You really see his quickness in basketball,’’ Williams said. “He’s going to be missed, in basketball and at the school, period. He’s such a good kid.’’
Williamson didn’t play defense in Friday. A week earlier, he played two ways and most every play in the 42-27 victory over Chaska in the 5A quarterfinals. His coach has said of Williamson, he delivers a “thump’’ when he plays safety, and already the speculation is that’s where the Gophers will play him.
“When he committed, Matt Simon guaranteed Jason that he would at least get a shot at tailback,’’ Williams said.
Simon is the Gophers’ receivers coach and the primary recruiter on Williamson. And it should be considered an act of logic — not generosity — for the Gophers to give a true look at tailback for a player likely to surpass 3,000 yards as a senior in 5A football.
Owatonna’s domination was Friday’s headline, but how about this:
Owatonna was 0-for-1 passing and Elk River was 1-for-4, with a 44-yard completion for its touchdown. And in Friday’s previous game, Barnesville defeated Minneapolis North 34-20 in Class 2A, without throwing a pass.
For Owatonna, the Huskies didn’t throw because they didn’t want to. Elk River and Barnesville didn’t throw because, basically, they don’t.
Steve Hamilton came to Elk River and took over a moribund football program. He brought with him with a power-T offense that he had adopted in Michigan.
Block, run hard, throw in some misdirection and hold the ball; pound and pop, all the way down the field. That’s the idea.
Elk River’s football transformation with this offense drew attention from coaches around the state. A dozen have visited Elk River for a crash course, including Barnesville’s Bryan Strand.
John Shillito of Zeeland West in Michigan is the guru of this offense. Hamilton learned it from him and checks in regularly. He sent video to Shillito on Owatonna and the mentor offered an opinion.
“He said, ‘I think you guys are in trouble,’ ” Hamilton said.
In this case, it was double trouble — a stout Huskies’ defense and Williamson.