A 30-year drought ended in Edina on Friday night.
The Hornets survived a sloppy game to advance to the state tournament for the first time since 1981 with a 30-27 victory over Blaine.
The Class 6A matchup of teams from Sections 5 and 6 featured turnovers and several costly penalties, but enough from both sides to keep each team in the game.
“Painful,” Edina coach Reed Boltmann said. “Our guys played probably the worst game of the year here tonight. We kind of shot ourselves in the foot.
“We played like a rollercoaster. We’d play well and give it back to them.”
Edina (9-1) benefited early and late, taking advantage of Blaine’s miscues thanks to its defense and special teams. The Hornets defense accounted for their first two touchdowns and stopped the Bengals’ final attempt at victory in the final minutes.
The Blaine defense, which gave up only 15 points in the previous three games combined, let the Hornets get off just 23 plays compared to Blaine’s 40. But a pair of Edina interceptions returned for touchdowns by Jack Follen and Derek Todd negated the numerous stops.
“Defense won this game,” said Edina quarterback Mark Handberg, who threw for 231 yards and connected twice with Marley Allison for touchdowns in the second half. “The defense kept giving the offense crap, telling us they were beating us on the scoreboard.”
Of the four touchdowns scored in the first two quarters, only one was by the offense. Just moments after Edina returned its second interceptions for another score, Blaine wide receiver Kunle Ayinde rushed for an 80-yard touchdown.
The quick score gave Blaine a needed burst of life after falling behind 17-0. It got another shot of momentum just before time expired to end the first half. Sam Kriegler blocked an Edina field goal and returned it 76 yards for a touchdown.
The Bengals (6-4) carried the surge of offense through halftime and into the second half, briefly taking a 20-17 lead midway through the third quarter.
But if the Hornets felt the stress of a possible upset, once again a turnover provided them a favor. Holding the lead, Blaine followed up a defensive stop by fumbling away an Edina punt. On the next play, the Hornets retook the lead for good when Handberg connected with Allison for a 35-yard touchdown pass.
“I would definitely say that was the turning point in the game,” said Edina’s Miles Lerner, who recovered the fumbled punt in the third quarter. “It was big for our momentum and to keep us positive and keep us going.”