South St. Paul, now in its 12th season under coach Chad Sexauer, reached the first Prep Bowl in program history.

“This was the next rung,” Sexauer said. “We’ve been trying to pick at things as a program. We had never really talked about state championships before.”

Expect the conversation to change. The Packers will return to practice next fall at Ettinger Field, the natural-bowl stadium affectionately known as “The Pit,” with bigger dreams.

“We had a great week to be able to reflect on what the season was,” said Sexauer, who has guided the Packers to five state tournament appearances. “So this experience was great. Everybody wants to feel it, but you’ve got to work. There’s a lot of talent left in the room, and we’re going to do everything we can.”

Senior quarterback Dan Pietruszewski, a freshly minted Packers football alum after the game, still used “we” when talking about future success.

“We established a foundation, and I hope we can build on that now and win a state championship,” he said.


Victory eats, beats

Police cars and fire trucks led the Osseo football team buses out of town Friday morning. The evening celebration called for dinner and dancing in the gym.

“The booster club bought about 100 pizzas so we’re going to put some beats on in the gym and do a little dancing,” Osseo coach Derrin Lamker said.

Heart to helmet

One Vegas gold Caledonia football helmet saw Friday’s Prep Bowl come and go without its chin straps fastened or an encouraging pat of a player’s hand on its crown.

Instead, the helmet resembled a secretary’s desk covered in papers. The notes, written by Warriors players, are a tradition designed to provide perspective. They contain the players’ best efforts to put their hearts in print.

Before the 2007 Prep Bowl, former coach Carl Fruechte instructed players to write down why they wanted to win. Team members did the same before winning titles in 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012.

“We want to make sure it means more to the boys than just winning a state championship,” coach Brent Schroeder said. “Win or lose, we want them to enjoy the experience and realize they are playing with their brothers one last time.”