The South has risen again.
For two consecutive seasons, Lakeville South has taken a midseason change in stride. A year ago, the Cougars revamped their offense and went from a team with a losing record to semifinals of the state tournament.
That was nothing compared to this season, when head coach Tyler Krebs abruptly resigned before the fourth game amid a police investigation. Interim coach Ben Burk kept the focus by imploring players to stay dialed in to the little things that elevated the program — film study and four days of work per week in the weight room.
Those little things produced the biggest upset through six weeks of high school football.
Playing across town at Lakeville North, fifth-ranked Lakeville South stunned the state's top-ranked team and defending Class 6A champion 34-19. It was the Cougars' first victory in 11 tries in the rivalry since 2010.
"Good programs put things in place so they can weather storms like that," said Burk, who won his debut as a head coach a week ago against Prior Lake. "Football teaches us how to deal with adversity. And when problems arise, you can either confront them head-on or you can fold.
"Our kids bought in and now they are reaping the benefits of their commitment."
Lakeville South (5-1), with a straight-T offense that uses a three-running back set and misdirection to befuddle defenses, repeatedly gouged Lakeville North (5-1).
"Stopping the run was a huge challenge for us," Panthers coach Brian Vossen said.
Senior Johnny Shabaz struck first, emerging from a scrum to dash 60 yards for a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
On the first play of the second quarter, junior quarterback Reid Patterson hit senior George Brekke for an 18-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
Meanwhile, the Cougars defense bottled-up and battered RaJa Nelson, the Panthers' quarterback and playmaker supreme.
"We were trying to set up a picket fence so that he was not able to run around the way he's been able to," Burk said. "And if he did get loose, we had to have 11 guys running to the ball."
A solid South drive, capped by Riley Haglund's 2-yard scoring run, gave the Cougars a 27-12 cushion with 7:12 to play.
"It feels good," an emotional Haglund said. "It's been way too long since we beat them."