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Lost in Totino-Grace's 49-21 blowout victory against Owatonna in the Class 5A Prep Bowl was a second-quarter series during which the Eagles seemed to be unraveling.
An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Eagles for taunting gave Owatonna a fourth-and-2 at the Totino-Grace 42-yard line. The teams were tied 14-14 with less than 2 minutes to play before halftime, so Owatonna chose to be aggressive and go for it.
Totino-Grace dug in, allowing the Huskies' running back 1 yard and turning them over on downs. Four plays later, Totino-Grace threw a touchdown pass to go ahead 21-14 and the rout was on.
Isaac Florell was credited with the tackle but he got help from senior nose tackle Joey Schiller.
The 6-2, 245-pound Schiller, whose helmet bears more scuffs than a municipal golf course tee box, keyed the Eagles defense throughout an undefeated season that ended with the program's seventh state title since 2003.
Schiller, a Star Tribune All-Metro first team selection, also won the Class 2A state wrestling title at 220 pounds.
He spoke with Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about the fourth-down stop, the key ingredients of the Eagles' defensive success and the program's place among the state's best.
Q Go back to the Owatonna drive where you guys get the taunting penalty and they go for it on fourth down. Did you sense that was a key stop?
A It definitely was. The whole game is about momentum. If they had gotten that first down, there's no telling what could have happened next.
Q You weren't credited on the tackle but didn't I see you get a piece of the Owatonna ball carrier?
A I think I had him by the shoulder pads.
Q Were there games during the season where you left the field feeling like you had taken a big step forward as a defense?
A Honestly, I think they were all great. Every single game, I think we grinded through. Our whole defense executes. We know our stuff so we don't have to think.
Q What makes this defense so effective?
A Our coaches. They do so much for us. They make it so we know the other team's offense more than they do. We know their tendencies every single play.
Q Coaches get you ready but what about on the field when it's up to players?
A Execution and sticking with each other shoulder to shoulder.
Q You beat two great 6A teams in Edina and Osseo and now you've won the 5A title. Where do consider yourself among the best teams in the state?
A Honestly, I don't know. We can't really assume too much because whatever team we play, it could turn out differently.
Q You've got wrestling to look forward to. How far behind will you be when you get on the mat?
A Practice started [Nov. 19] and I'll take a week off but then I'll be back. I don't need to lose any weight because I'll be wrestling heavyweight this year.
David La Vaque • 612-673-7574