This was supposed to Burnsville's year to emerge as a new power in the metro. And for one half, the Blaze went toe-to-toe with one of the metro's elite. But winning has become a habit at Lakeville North despite significant losses to graduation. The Panthers gave the upstarts a lesson in what winning football looks like, pulling away in the second half Friday for a 29-18 victory.

Burnsville led 18-15 midway through the third quarter, answering a Lakeville North touchdown with one of its own. That's when the Panthers — particularly junior Wade Sullivan — turned things up a notch or two, showing that personnel losses don't equate to losses on the field.

"The tradition and the legacy we've built here doesn't change, no matter who graduates," Lake-ville North coach Brian Vossen said. "The one thing that doesn't change is the effort and the heart the kids put into the game. There are some pretty special players in this group that maybe don't get talked about that much, but they're good football players."

One of those players is Sullivan, a 5-8, 165-pound running back who made the second half his personal showcase. He picked up 248 all-purpose yards and scored two touchdowns, on an 89-yard kickoff return and a 36-yard touchdown.

"On paper, he doesn't belong on the field," Vossen said. "But he's so tough, and he's insanely athletic."

Jim Paulsen