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Chazz Johnson scored three touchdowns Friday night, but Holy Family’s four interceptions made the difference in a 27-23 victory over Hill-Murray in a Class 4A football state quarterfinal at Macalester College.

“Our defense really won this game today by great turnovers,’’ Holy Family coach Dave Hopkins said. “We did a good job by not turning the ball over ourselves. Typical cliché, but turnovers won the football game.”

After missing last week’s section final because of a knee injury, Hill-Murray quarterback Zach Lavalle started the game but ran into a feisty defense. The Fire capitalized on two first-half interceptions. Johnson dug for a 6-yard rushing touchdown and then caught a 4-yard halfback pass from Rob LaRose for an early 13-0 lead.

“It was a team game,” said Johnson, who added two sacks of his own on the defensive end.

Three big plays completed the first half.

Hill-Murray senior receiver Michael Alada took a direct snap 62 yards for a touchdown, but Johnson responded with his third touchdown of the half, busting a 64-yard run. Lavalle followed that with a 53-yard touchdown pass to Alada to make it 20-13 Fire at the half.

The Pioneers punched in an early third-quarter touchdown to tie the score, but Holy Family capitalized on another turnover. A LaRose interception and return into the red zone set up Connor Byrnes for a 4-yard score to give the Fire a 27-20 lead in the fourth quarter. Brennan LaFeber kicked a 32-yard field goal to make it 27-23, but Holy Family held the lead.

After a 2-3 start to the season, Holy Family is now just one victory away from advancing to the state championship game.

“Everybody kind of stuck with it and they believed,” Hopkins said. “The true belief in the program really is what kept us afloat.”

 

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