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In many ways, Chanhassen and Chaska couldn’t be closer. Barely 2½ miles apart in the same school district, they met on Saturday for the first time in their four-year rivalry with advancement in the football playoffs at stake.
Score Round 1 for Chanhassen, playing at home and holding strong late to defeat the Hawks 20-14.
The Storm raced to a 14-0 lead on Nathan Johnson’s 2-yard run on its first offensive possession and an acrobatic 24-yard catch by Jared Lea early in the second quarter.
The Hawks answered with a 6-yard touchdown run by Kolby Seiffert.
Another Lea touchdown, even more impressive than his first, sent the game to halftime with the Storm leading 20-7. Lea nabbed a bubble screen from the 15-yard line, then twisted and dove with second effort across the goal line.
“Jared’s a great player,’’ Chanhassen coach Bill Rosburg said. “He’s sort of a soft-spoken guy, but he’s a great leader for the younger guys and a hell of an athlete.”
After a scoreless third quarter, Chaska quarterback Justin Arnold found Seiffert for a 58-yard reception. That set up an eventual 1-yard touchdown plunge by Seiffert to bring Chaska within a touchdown.
Chaska threatened twice late in the game, getting into Storm territory.
One drive stalled at the Storm 14-yard line after an Alec Dodds interception gave the Hawks great field position. A final desperation pass from the 37-yard line fell incomplete.
The Storm’s Johnson, who ran for 139 yards in the first half, finished with 202 yards on 36 carries.
“We were never comfortable at any point in this game,” Rosburg said. “We’ve been here four years and started out as the guys getting beat up. We have a lot of respect for our opponent, and they’re young. They’re going to be good.”