Wayzata High School hasn't started classes for the new school year yet, but its football team already passed a huge test.
Down 13 points in the second half with their starting quarterback limping around the field, the Trojans dug deep and rallied for a 28-27 victory against visiting Rosemount on opening night.
New Wayzata coach Lambert Brown won his first game as a head coach since November 2013 as his players exhibited the mental toughness he has labored to instill. A pair of touchdowns scored on fourth-down plays and a swarming, stifling fourth-quarter defense showed a swagger lacking during a 2-7 finish last fall.
"I'm so blessed to be working with this staff and these kids, so I'm really happy to see that they were able to fight," Brown said. "When it got tough, they responded the way we wanted them to."
Touchdown receptions of 80 and 76 yards by Jonathan Mann put Rosemount ahead 27-14 early in the second half. Then Wayzata starting quarterback Keaton Heide took a big hit and went off because of a tender ankle on the Trojans' ensuing drive.
Nobody panicked, however.
"That was one of those times we really tried to focus on our task at hand," Heide said. "All summer long, our goal was to finish out every practice rep 1-0. Having a positive outlook on the game showed tonight."
Billy Riviere scored for a second time on a fourth-down play call, this one a vault over the goal line, and Wayzata trailed 27-21 with 5 minutes, 31 seconds left in the third quarter.
Then Deshawn Cockrell got loose for a 31-yard touchdown run and Reid Sanders kicked the go-ahead extra point with the final quarter just 10 seconds old.
Wayzata's defense stiffened from there, turning Rosemount over on downs on its final two possessions.
"You give up a 13-point lead in the second half — that's not acceptable," Irish coach Jeff Erdmann said. "We've got to be better at finishing."
Brown started his Wayzata head coaching tenure in memorable fashion. He left Chaska for the activities director job at Maple Grove, then returned to coaching last fall on the Wayzata staff as assistant head coach.
Brown replaced Brad Anderson, who led the Trojans to five Prep Bowls in eight seasons from 2004-11 and three state titles.