Owatonna Welcomes Home Prep Bowl Champs; Players React to Title
The Owatonna High School auditorium felt like a dance party as the pep band played and Huskies' fans swayed to the music while awaiting the arrival of the newly crowned state champion football team. The players sprinted up the aisles to the strains of the school song while the packed auditorium gave them a wild, standing ovation.
The team was coming off their dominating 63-26 Class 5A Prep Bowl XXXVI championship win over Elk River at U.S. Bank Stadium. OHS Principal Mark Randall, himself part of back-to-back state basketball championships with the Indians, spoke of the pride he had for the football team, "We started the school year off by talking about making a difference in being leaders in our school and being a wisher, a talker and a doer, and you guys were doers tonight. You got it done." Randall congratulated them on their academic All-State recognition as well.
Owatonna Mayor Tom Kuntz proclaimed, "Owatonna is one of five cities in the running for Minnesota Monthly...We are also one of the top 20 in the United States to be running for Deluxe Checking, but we are number one for football! You couldn't make Owatonna prouder than with the performance you did tonight."
Jell Elstad, Owatonna's Superintendent, added, "I'm so proud of you guys and the way you played and the heart you put in. I don't know that everyone always realizes that when I drive by the weight room at 6:30 in the morning during the summer, when other people are sleeping in, you're in lifting. You're in getting it done, every single day, and we should be proud of that."
Players shared the reaction and many thanked their teammates. Senior quarterback Abe Havelka said, "Can we give it up for the line. They are amazing." The offensive line of seniors Terrell Conner, Andy Jensen, Dylan Meier, Brody Veach and sophomore Zach Wiese protected Havelka through a record-setting season and opened immense holes for junior running back Jason Williamson, who tied a Prep Bowl record with six touchdowns in the title game.
Senior Tucker Alstead returned a fumble for a touchdown Saturday, "I was just thinking that the guy was going to go around him, but then Parker (Westphal) did a good job of getting past the defender and popping the ball. I just made sure I had to get that in the end zone." The scoop-and-score lifted Owatonna to a 42-14 lead and came eight seconds after a Williamson TD run.
Senior Logan Starkson played his first downs of defense in the title game and only knew of the plan at the beginning of the week. "Monday when coach Eggermont...told me I was going to play 'D.' I knew what I had to accomplish to get the 'W' and our 'D' stepped up as a whole. I can't thank them enough. They gave me a lot of help as well." He had played some defense at younger levels before moving to Owatonna and said it was a natural transition for him, "I like hitting people."
Coach Jeff Williams thanked the fans for their support, "It's so cool to walk out there on those hash marks and hear the roar of the crowd when our kids get introduced." Coach Marc Achterkirch said he fielded multiple compliments from high school league officials on the positive conduct of the players.