Strong Defense Powers Owatonna to Championship Repeat
The Owatonna High School football program won its second straight Class 5A title with a spectacular defensive effort in a 14-3 win over St. Thomas Academy in Saturday's Prep Bowl XXXVII at US Bank Stadium. It's the Huskies third title in the last six years. OHS shut out the Cadets in the second half, giving up just 139 total yards in the contest.
Trailing 3-0 at the half, the Huskies first play from scrimmage of the third quarter was epic. Golden Gopher recruit Jason Williamson took a pitch from Sol Havelka, ran to the left, broke a tackle or two, spun away from a trio of defenders who seemed to have him wrapped up, put his hand to the turf to stay on his feet and sprinted 71 yards for the go-ahead touchdown. The play made ESPN's Top Ten list at No. 8.
Williamson surpassed 7,000 career yards with his 185 yard day. He scored another touchdown with less than two minutes to go in the game, giving him 110 career scores, which sets the state record according to the Minnesota State High School League website. Williamson had 214 all purpose yards with 12 receiving and 18 on kick returns.
After forcing Owatonna to punt on the opening possession of the game, St. Thomas Academy took the ball 65 yards to the Huskies' ten and kicked a 27-yard field goal for their only points of the game.
With OHS up 7-3, STA drove to the Huskies 6-yard line midway through the fourth quarter but the Huskies held on downs.
Owatonna did not gain a first down and punted from their 14-yard line. The Cadets started from their 49-yard line with 4:15 to go. Brendan McFadden carried the ball for eight yards on the first play of the drive. During the tackle Zach Stransky knocked the ball free and Isaac Gefre recovered it for the only turnover of the game.
The Huskies (13-0) put the game away six plays later as Williamson ran 44 yards for the touchdown. David Keller converted both extra points and the Huskies earned the 14-3 win.
After limiting Elk River to 2.7 yards per carry in the semifinals, OHS held STA to 2.1 yards per attempt and sacked their quarterback four times, including sacks by Joseph Stransky and Ethan Rohman on STA's last desperation drive. Rohman had two sacks. Nick Staska had the other. Gefre led the team in tackles Saturday.
Havelka was 5-for-12 passing in the first half for 46 yards with a couple of drops by his receivers. OHS did not attempt a pass in the second half. STA was 3-for-10 through the air. Owatonna had 220 yards of total offense. Each team punted seven times. Owatonna had eight first downs to seven for STA (12-1).
The Huskies were 4-of-12 on third down conversion tries. St. Thomas Academy was 2-for-13. Owatonna was 0-for-1 on fourth down. STA was 0-for-2.
Zander Johnson was presented with the Most Valuable Teammate Award from the high school league during the trophy presentation. A large crowd of fans packed the OHS auditorium for a welcome home Saturday night. The pep band and cheerleaders performed and players and coaches reacted to the championship performance.