Football: Lakers' run ends in the final seconds to Holdingford

The Minnewaska football team was one of a handful of programs that looked capable of winning the Section 5, Class AA championship. On Saturday, another one of those teams had just a little bit more. A perennially strong Holdingford program secure...

The Minnewaska football team was one of a handful of programs that looked capable of winning the Section 5, Class AA championship.

On Saturday, another one of those teams had just a little bit more. A perennially strong Holdingford program secured a 21-18 win in the section semifinals on the Lakers' home field, and it came down to the final seconds.

The Huskers (6-4) had first-and-goal from the 1-yard line before the Lakers got a tackle-for-loss on the next two plays. That put Holdingford into a passing situation where Devan DeMorett found Griffin Olson for the game-winning touchdown catch with 10 seconds to go.

"Heartbreaker," Minnewaska head coach Jeremy Christensen said. "Our kids played a tremendous game. I thought we did a great job defensively against their multi-formation offense, and we were able to move the ball more consistently than they were. Unfortunately, we just had a few mistakes that ended our drives and extended theirs. Football is a game of inches as they say, and Holdingford was able to get that final inch."

Minnewaska outgained Holdingford 354-241 in total yards, but the Lakers had two turnovers on a fumble and an interception. The Huskers never gave the ball away in what was a back-and-forth contest all day.


Minnewaska scored first when quarterback Matt Gruber hit Garrett Jensen for a 29-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. The Huskers answered right back, getting an 11-yard touchdown pass from DeMorett to Jordan Brown to make it 6-6 at the half.

Minnewaska's Ryan Christianson had a big game with 134 yards rushing, and 31 of those came on a third-quarter touchdown that gave the Lakers the lead back. Holdingford answered with another score when Griffin Olson broke free for a 28-yard touchdown. The extra point made it 13-12 heading into the fourth quarter.

The Lakers scored first in the final frame. Gruber punched one in from a yard out. That made it 18-13 until the final seconds when the Huskers stole the win.

"I was extremely fortunate to have this group of 14 seniors be a major part of my transition into Minnewaska Lakers football," Christensen said after wrapping up his second season as this team's head coach. "We had expectations for this season, and we didn't quite accomplish what we wanted to, but when you compare this season to last year, we were able to accomplish a lot of good things. These kids bought in 100 percent and did everything we asked of them and that's why they were able flip their record from a year ago. It always stings the most right away, but in the grand scheme of things there is a lot to look back on and smile about for these kids."

The Lakers went from two wins in 2016 to 7-3 this fall. Those 14 seniors had a lot to do with the turnaround, but the Lakers hope to use the success of this season as a springboard into another productive season in 2018.

"We are graduating a lot of experience and some very good football players, but the cupboard isn't bare by any means," Christensen said. "We started three sophomores and three juniors and we had 57 kids out in grades 9-12, so we're looking at next year and saying 'next man up.' We never want to look at an upcoming season and say it will be a rebuilding year. We want to have the mentality that when we graduate a class, no matter how talented, that we are reloading."

HOLDINGFORD 0 6 7 8 - 21

MINNEWASKA 0 6 6 6 - 18



SECOND PERIOD - Minnewaska - Matt Gruber 29-yard pass to Garrett Jensen; PAT no good; Holdingford - Evan DeMorett 11-yard pass to Jordan Brown; PAT no good

THIRD PERIOD - Minnewaska - Ryan Christianson 31-yard run; Two-point conversion no good; Holdingford - Griffin Olson 28-yard run; Jayden Prochaska PAT

FOURTH QUARTER - Minnewaska - Gruber 1-yard run; Two-point conversion no good; Holdingford - DeMorett 5-yard pass to Griffin Olson; Tyson Patrick two-point conversion run

TOTALS - Minnewaska - First downs - 15; Total yards - 354; Turnovers - 2; Penalties - 5-45; Holdingford - First downs - 11; Total yards - 241; Turnovers - 0; Penalties - 5-39

MINNEWASKA OFFENSE - Passing - Gruber - 9-14, 168 yards, TD, INT; Receiving - Jackson Johnsrud - 4-45; Jack Blevins - 1-14; Garrett Jensen - 2-56, TD; Ryan Christianson - 1-8; Jaeger Jergenson - 1-49; Rushing - Gruber - 9-31, TD; Blevins - 3-4; Garrett Jensen - 8-28; Christianson - 21-134, TD

Eric Morken is a sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press Newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota, a property of the Forum News Service. Morken covers a variety of stories throughout the Douglas County area, as well as statewide outdoor issues.
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