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Injured captains from Wayzata are left to watch, wish

11/17/2012, 12:17am CST
By JASON GONZALEZ

At the tail end of a mass of Wayzata players rushing into the Metrodome on Friday night, captains Mitch Underhill and Chris Wipson were left behind.

dispatches from the dome

At the tail end of a mass of Wayzata players rushing into the Metrodome on Friday night, captains Mitch Underhill and Chris Wipson were left behind.

The senior running backs couldn't keep up in their tennis shoes and boots as they limped onto the field still recovering from season-ending knee injuries. The pair watched helplessly as the Trojans prepared for the Class 6A state semifinal against Lake Conference rival Eden Prairie, imagining what it would be like if they could trade their jeans and sweats for a full uniform, pads and a helmet.

All they could do, though, is encourage, coach and painfully watch from the sidelines as Eden Prairie ended their season with a 21-7 victory.

Standing on the edge of a postgame prayer, Underhill held the Trojans' semifinalist trophy, his right hand decorated with a 2010 state championship ring. The two trophies didn't mesh well together, and Underhill's tears showed it.

"It's hard 'cause they're like family. Everything that happens to them, happens to you. But I can't impact the game," said Underhill, who also missed last season because of the same right knee injury. "It hurts."

Wipson mourned for his teammates and Underhill, whom he praised as the best running back in the state. With Underhill on the field, Wipson said, there is no way the Eagles would have shut out the Trojans for three-plus quarters.

"I haven't seen many other teams that have lost two captains," Wipson said. "It's kind of a helpless feeling."

Wide awake

A 5:45 a.m. wake-up call sounded throughout the hotel rooms of the Grand Meadow football team Friday morning. The Nine-man, Section 1 champions were scheduled for a 9 a.m. start at the Metrodome, but they were ready for it.

Leading up to the semifinal matchup against South Ridge, Grand Meadow added a 6:15 a.m. practice to its schedule.

"You gotta do what you gotta do," quarterback Trenton Bleifus said after a 61-6 victory over South Ridge. "I think it benefitted us a lot. So it was worth it."

Major turnaround

For two seasons, Princeton suffered through constant defeat. The Tigers started this fall with a 22-game losing streak and, with a lot of the same personnel back, didn't expect much.

"It was tough," quarterback Zack Ludwig said. "It almost made football not fun. Every time we lost, it got worse."

That all changed in the season opener, a 34-28 victory over Mora that started a three-game winning streak. The turnaround eventually led to the Class 4A semifinals and a trip to the Metrodome.

"I couldn't ask for anything more," Ludwig said.

The Tigers' run came to an end Friday evening against Holy Family, capping an 8-5 season with the best postseason in program history.

Suit up

St. Thomas Academy's student fan base took a different approach to showing school pride on Friday. The Cadets wore their service uniforms, after the traditions of college military academies' football games.

The Cadets don't normally suit up for sporting events, but the state tournament berth was worthy of the spruced-up look. Even the middle-schoolers in attendance wore their light blue shirts and a tie.

Dome-like setting

Owatonna and St. Thomas Academy benefitted from a chance to take reps in a dome-like environment leading up to Friday's Class 5A semifinal.

The Huskies prepared with a visit to the University of Northern Iowa's UNI-Dome. TAnd the Cadets warmed up for the semifinal at the Augsburg Dome.

FRIDAY RECAP

MVP

Chazz Johnson, Holy Family

The sophomore running back rushed for 210 yards and two touchdowns and returned a fumble 43 yards for another touchdown. In the first half alone, Johnson rushed for 146 yards, an average of 14.6 per carry.

BY THE NUMBERS

99 Points scored by the two winning 9-Man teams on Friday morning. Grand Meadow scored 61 and Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley 38. They will play in next week's 9-Man state final.

4 Possession changes within a 3:41 span in the fourth quarter of the Class 5A semifinal. The final swap, a St. Thomas Academy fumble recovered by Owatonna with 3:01 remaining, led to the winning touchdown.

9 Consecutive years either Eden Prairie or Wayzata has played in the large-class Prep Bowl.

VOICES

"Lingerie and football don't mix. But it's kind of clever and I'm not. So I said let's roll with it and it's worked. We put it on a shirt and all laughed."

-- Holy Family coach Dave Hopkins on fans' Holy Family T-shirts that say "Sponsored by Victoria's Secret" on the back. In fine print above and below the vendor, it says "Fire football ... Victoria's Secret ... weapon." Holy Family is in Victoria.

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