Maple Grove recovered two onside kicks and scored three touchdowns in the final 59 seconds to shock third-ranked St. Michael-Albertville 29-27 Thursday in the Class 6A state quarterfinals.
The Crimson trailed 27-10 with 4 minutes, 30 seconds left in the game after Knights quarterback Marcus Krupke found wide receiver Xavier Thurman for a 17-yard touchdown. After the ensuing kickoff, Maple Grove drove 70 yards and scored on Curtis Haugen 30-yard pass to Joe Raymon with 59 seconds left.
The Crimson then recovered an onside kick. And, on the next play, Haugen found Raymon down the left sideline for a 49-yard touchdown.
Suddenly trailing only 27-22 and with 46 seconds still left on the clock, Crimson coach Matt Lombardi called for another onside kick. Kicker Andy Peterson squibbed it 10 yards, a slew of blockers cleared out Knights defenders, and a Maple Grove player once again emerged with the ball.
Five plays later, after reaching the Knights 1-yard line, running back Evan Hull strolled into the end zone, untouched, with 4 seconds on the clock for the lead.
And, incredibly, the victory.
"Just like we drew it up," Lombardi said with a laugh as he addressed his team afterward at Park Center High School. "It just shows as bad as things might seem for you, you can never give up. "
The stunning turnaround came as St. Michael-Albertville (9-2), which held the lead for over 40 minutes, appeared headed to the state semifinals in its first season in Class 6A.
On the Knights' first possession of the game, running back Desean Phillips capped a 70-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run. The score stayed 7-0 until 4:48 left in the first half, when Krupke hit senior wide receiver Zach Sjelin for a 30-yard touchdown.
Maple Grove didn't score until Peterson kicked a 20-yard field goal on the final play of the first half. The Crimson had driven to the St. Michael-Albertville 15-yard line earlier, but Knights lineman Austin Bucholz intercepted a screen pass to end the threat.
Maple Grove looked like it might steal momentum back early in the second half. Hull ran for a 3-yard score to narrow the margin to 14-10. Hull had 177 yards on 36 carries, giving him 2,077 rushing yards this season.
But Krupke and Thurman responded with two long touchdown passes that put the Knights back up by 17 points.
"We made some big plays in the passing game and got some big stops at different points," St. Michael-Albertville coach Jared Essler said. "It was just a crazy ending. The offense, defense or special teams just needed to make one more play and that's what it comes down to. … I've never seen anything quite like that."
So Maple Grove (8-3) will make its third semifinal appearance in four years. It will face top-ranked Eden Prairie (11-0), which defeated the Crimson 28-7 on Sept. 28.
"This game will be remembered in Maple Grove for a long time," Lombardi said. "We're not going to give it back, but St. Michael- Albertville really deserved it."