Owatonna was sitting in pretty good position, or so it seemed.
The Huskies trailed by a touchdown but had just stopped No. 1-ranked Totino-Grace on its opening drive of the second half. The way they moved the ball before halftime, fans of both teams settled in for what looked to be a doozy of second half.
Six minutes of game time later, it was all but over.
Totino-Grace, as it had done to 12 other opponents this season, smacked its hopeful opponents back to reality, scoring 21 quick points in the third quarter to pull away and cruise to an 49-21 victory over the previously unbeaten Huskies in the Class 5A championship game.
“I don’t know what happened,” said Owatonna quarterback Colton Schock. “It’s not anything we did. It was all Totino-Grace. You have to tip your cap to them.”
Totino-Grace celebrated its seventh Prep Bowl victory, the second-most in the 31-year history of the football finale. Eden Prairie, which won the Class 6A championship Friday, has won eight.
For the first half, the game was very much in doubt. The two teams took turns scoring touchdowns, with Totino-Grace scoring on a pair of touchdown passes from A.J. LaPanta sandwiched around a short run by Mason Kaliszewski.
Owatonna answered the Eagles’ first two touchdowns, on a 22-yard reception by Mason Bloomquist and a 1-yard dive by Schock, the latter of which came as a result of a sack and forced fumble by Bloomquist. Totino-Grace led 21-14 at halftime. Little did anyone know at the time that the game would never be closer.
Totino-Grace broke the game wide open on three consecutive second-half possessions. LaPanta found Charlie Miller for a 65-yard bomb down the right sideline, Kez Flomo darted through the Owatonna defense for 43 yards and a score and, following Owatonna’s only turnover of the game, Kai Barber plowed 11 yards for a touchdown. In a span of 6:04, the score went from 21-14 to 42-14, shocking everyone not wearing Totino-Grace yellow and blue.
“At halftime, we sort of get a mental gut check, if that makes sense,” said Totino-Grace senior offensive tackle John Bednarczyk. “Something clicks in the second half. We call it 'Our Time.’”
Even the Eagles’ players admitted to being somewhat surprised with the speed of the turnaround.
“We thought it was going to be tough all the way through,” said LaPanta, who had a marvelously efficient performance, completing 8 of 11 passes for 219 yards and three touchdowns. “In the second half, we came out flying. We feel we can out-physical teams, and that’s the formula for winning.”