Elk River was protecting a lead that had shrunk to three. Mankato West, hoping to extend its winning streak to 32 games, was looking for that one stop that had eluded them all game.

A false start penalty on Elk River was just what the Scarlets were hoping for. The methodical Elks were facing second and 14. There was less than six minutes to go and a state championship was still dangling free.

Enter Cade Osterman. The Elk River quarterback faked a handoff, kept the ball and raced around left end. He stiff-armed one defender, stepped around another and wasn't shoved out of bounds until he was 19 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.

First down. And more importantly, a victory was in Elk River's grasp.

The Elks built a 10-point second-half lead and made it stick to win their second Class 5A state championship 29-26 over defending champion Mankato West.

"We got them in 2nd and 15, which is what we wanted," said Mankato West coach JJ Helget. "Their quarterback is phenomenal. We miss a tackle and he gets a first down. That took a little bit of a gut punch to us and we lost a momentum."

Osterman said he and the rest of the team knew just how important that first down was.

"[Jack Lachmiller] came up to me and Caleb [Sandstrom] came up to me after that and said 'That's a state championship play'," Osterman said. "I just knew we had to keep moving the ball down the field."

Running its well-publicized Power-T offense, Elk River showed Mankato West what so many others experienced before them: an attack that can both control the clock and make big, game changing plays.

Elk River (13-0) rushed for 400 yards — which is about their per-game average — and got touchdown runs of 17 yards from Osterman, a Prep Bowl-record 93-yarder from Logan Bunker and 5 and 57 yards from P.J. Bono.

"It's tough because you've got to be perfect every single play," Helget said. "If you're not, then — boom! They hit you with a long run. Take away those long runs and I'm happy with the way our defense performed.

Osterman's clutch first down is the kind of play Elk River coach Steve Hamilton has come to expect from the senior, who finished with 70 yards rushing.

"Going into the year, we knew we were super-athletic," Hamilton said. "To me, to win a state championship, you need somebody to make plays when they're not there and Cade did that for us."