MINNEAPOLIS -- Three Rivers. Three teams. Three state titles.
The Three Rivers Conference went 3-0 on Saturday as Plainview/Elgin-Millville, Kingsland and Rushford-Peterson each won state football championships in their respective classes on the last day of the 2002 Prep Bowl.
In 3A, Plainview/Elgin-Millville rallied in the fourth quarter to beat Glencoe-Silver Lake 24-21, Kingsland routed Norwood-Young America 35-7 in the 2A game and Rushford-Peterson beat Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin 14-7 to claim the 1A crown.
In other Prep Bowl games Saturday, Eden Prairie beat Champlin Park for the 5A title; Mankato West defeated Mahtomedi in the 4A game and Verndale beat Nicollet 21-14 for the Nine-Man championship.
In the most tightly contested game of the Three Rivers sweep, Michael Kasten hauled in a 42-yard pass in the fourth quarter for the winning score in Plainview/Elgin-Millville's first-ever state tournament appearance.
"We played better 'D' in the second half," Bulldogs coach Bill Ihrke said. "Whenever they had to pass at the end, our 'D' bent but didn't break and we got a couple of breaks."
Strong defense was a common theme throughout the day as some of the most explosive offenses in the state struggled to gain yards and score points.
In the 5A game, No. 1 Eden Prairie completed its third straight shutout in the Prep Bowl by beating Champlin Park 21-0. The Eagles shut out their Prep Bowl opponents (Hastings, Alexandria and the Rebels) by a combined score of 62-0.
"You've got to credit the kids for overcoming their injuries this year," Eagles coach Mike Grant said. "It's tough to consistently get over injuries ... and stay at that level for an entire season."
Champlin Park fell short of completing its impressive turnaround with a state championship. The unranked Rebels started out the season 1-3.
"I'm proud of them," Rebels coach Tim Hermann said. "You've got to feel great pride for their effort."
Mankato West got a touchdown from its offense and defense to hold off Mahtomedi 17-7 in the 4A game. The Zephyrs came into the game averaging 30.9 points per game, but managed only a single touchdown against the Scarlets' stingy defense.
After seeing the Scarlets hold No. 1 Hutchinson to eight points in the semifinals, Zephyrs coach Wally Malstrom knew his team was in for a long night.
"They just took it to us. They're very, very strong defensively," Malstrom said.
While Mankato West shutdown Mahtomedi offensively, the Scarlets got their points on a 13-yard pass from Jordan Stolp to Jeremy Lund and a 32-yard interception return by
"We were considered underdogs," Stolp said. "A lot of people felt last game (an 11-8 win over Hutchinson) was our championship game. We proved a lot of people wrong."
Norwood-Young America also ran into a defensive brick wall in Kingsland. The Raiders, playing in a championship game after going 0-8 in 1999, came into the game averaging 329 yards and 30 points per game.
But Kingsland's defense stalled the Raiders as the Knights won 35-7.
Kingsland coach Mike Holzer said the game was his last as a head coach.
"I said at the beginning of the year that this was going to be it," Holzer said. "We went out in style."
The Knights led 35-0 at halftime after scoring on their first five possessions.
"Sometimes you have a half like that in high school," Raiders coach Clay Anderson said. "We didn't know how to handle it. I'm not sure I knew how to handle it."
In 1A, Reid Anderson's 66-yard punt return and the Rushford-Peterson defense proved to be the difference as the Trojans beat Mountain Lake-Butterfield-Odin 14-7 for their first-ever Class 1A title.
"If we don't play defense like that, we can't win that game," Trojans coach Jim Reinhardt said.
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