If you can't fake it, you don't play. That's what Elk River coach Steve Hamilton says as the Elks (11-1) attempt to defend their state football championship against Owatonna (11-1) Saturday, November 25 at 4PM at U.S. Bank Stadium. Owatonna defensive coordinator Marc Achterkirch says players, coaches, fans and even the officials have trouble at times determining who has the ball. Football play-by-play announcers struggle to locate it as well.

The Elks won their first state title in 2016 by running the ball for over 450 yards per game and winning their games by an average of 35 points. In the semifinals last year, the Elks rushed for 298 yards and held Owatonna to under 200 yards of offense. Elk River held the ball for 33:51, compared to Owatonna's 14:09. The Elks ran 70 plays, while the Huskies had just 45. Owatonna lost 19-7, the closest game the Elks had all year.

The Elks graduated quite a few starters off that club, according to Hamilton. Elk River has been in tighter games, and even lost a game, but are now only one win away from repeating as champs. The Elks haven't been as dominant this season, but still have won their games by an average of about 20 points. They lost to Rogers in week six and  won their section final 14-13 over St. Cloud Tech.

Achterkirch says it's important for Owatonna's defensive players to be patient, read their keys and not panic. He says running backs and the quarterback will execute fakes several yards downfield. Elk River had 60 carries for 701 yards in their 51-40 semifinal victory over Apple Valley. Adam Nelson dashed for 302 yards on just 18 carries for an average of 16.8 per run. Three other players carried eight times or more, leaving defenses, fans, officials and announcers guessing how has the ball.

Wednesday is the deadline for Owatonna fans to reserve a seat on a charter bus to the game. Stop at the Knights of Columbus Hall 3:30-5:30PM for details. Advance tickets sales will continue on Friday at the KC Hall 4:30-7PM. Tickets can also be purchased at the high school until 3:30PM Wednesday. The cost is $14 for adults and $9 for students. Tickets can also be purchased on a state high school league app or at the ticket window at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Fans can hear the game on Kat Kountry 105 (104.9FM), online or with the RadioPup app. Pregame should start around 3:30PM Saturday, November 25 for Prep Bowl XXXVI.

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