Rochester Lourdes quarterback Noah Hillman doubted his coaches' wisdom when they called "The Annexation of Puerto Rico," an often-practiced but seldom successful gadget play.
Tied late in a wild Class 3A state title game with St. Croix Lutheran, the Eagles traded possession-and-punt football for high risk, high reward. Hillman passed 14 yards to Ed Caples, who immediately lateraled to Pat Leary, who streaked 20 yards and then lateraled to Carter Greguson, who ran for 25 additional yards to the Crusaders 5-yard line.
One play later, Jake Groteboer's run for a touchdown put the Eagles ahead to stay at 42-35 with 25 seconds left. They earned the program's fourth Prep Bowl title overall and second in three seasons.
"In practice it actually hasn't worked that well," Hillman said. "Luckily, it worked when it mattered."
The third-and-22 call was bold. The design daring. But was it legal?
Replay showed Leary's lateral to Greguson was a forward pass by at least 5 yards. A penalty would have meant Eagles ball near the Crusaders 35-yard line.
Carl Lemke, coach at St. Croix Lutheran of West St. Paul (12-1), did not lay blame at the officials' feet.
"We did say something, but what are they going to do? They didn't see it," Lemke said. "We don't have instant replay here. You just live with that."
Lemke lauded the game as "a prime example of how great [high school football] can be."
Excitement came in many forms. The teams combined for 861 yards. Four times they were tied. Lourdes (13-0) tied a Prep Bowl record with a 99-yard scoring drive. Greguson, a senior linebacker, set a record with 20 solo tackles.
"I'm doing all right," said Greguson, who scored two touchdowns — one rushing, one receiving — and intercepted two passes. "I was just glad to get through the game without cramping."
Lourdes coach Mike Kesler said of Greguson: "He's a competitor. I've got to teach him since kindergarten, He wanted to win then, and he still wants to win now."