A season of living dangerously caught up with Elk River.
Owatonna, a team with speed to burn and a chip that has been glued to its collective shoulder for more than a year, dominated the Elks in just about every phase of the game en route to a 63-26 victory in the Class 5A championship game.
With an offense accustomed to putting up large amounts of points, Elk River (11-2) has been able to afford to have a defense that leaks. But it forces the Elks to do a balancing act with the lead as the offense can rarely afford a drive that doesn't result in points.
"Our margin for error is that if we didn't finish our drives, it's tough," Elk River coach Steve Hamilton said. "Our defense played their tails off, but that's the best football team in Class 5A. They took it to us."
Owatonna, which had played Elk River tough in the 2016 state semifinals only to fall 19-7, held Elk River's vaunted ground attack in check for much of the game. The Huskies held the Elks, who had rushed for 700 yards in their semifinal victory over Apple Valley, to a relatively paltry 333 yards on the ground, many of those after the game was already out of reach.
"We always had it in the back of our minds that Elk River was there and we would probably be playing them in the finals and we wanted to come out with a victory," said Owatonna nose tackle Kadyn Mulert.
Meanwhile, the Huskies offense found plenty of room to move and, with ultra-swift running back Jason Williamson leading the charge, moved the ball almost at will. Williamson carried the ball 23 times for 213 yards and five touchdowns and added a heads-up 67-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in the first half that quickly negated the Elks' only lead of the game. Williamson tied the Prep Bowl record for the most combined touchdowns, six, in a single game.
Owatonna (12-1) finished with 441 yards of total offense, did not turn the ball over and was forced to punt just once.
Meanwhile, the Owatonna defense was finding success stopping Elk River's vaunted running game. With Mulert bogging down the middle — Owatonna coach Jeff Williams called him "our defensive tackle-slash-root pig," referring to Mulert's down-and-dirty play — the swarming Huskies kept the Elks bottled up.
"Our kids did a great job of just staying true to their reads and their keys and believing in themselves," Williams said.
Owatonna took control midway with touchdown runs by Williamson and Abe Havelka in the second quarter for a 28-14 halftime lead. They sealed the victory with two more in an eight-second span early in the third quarter on a 43-yard run by Williamson and a 29-yard scoop-and-score by Tucker Alstead off an Elk River fumble.