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Defending 6A champ Lakeville North staves off Shakopee upset bid

By DAVID LA VAQUE, Star Tribune , 11/07/19, 10:00PM CST


The Panthers' RaJa Nelson scored a rushing touchdown on fourth down in the fourth quarter and later iced a 9-7 victory with an interception.

Raja Nelson (7) of Lakeville North ran for game-winning touchdown on a fourth-down play in the fourth quarter. Photo: RICHARD TSONG-TAATARII ¥ richard.tsong-taatarii@startribune.com

Reflecting on his team’s narrow 9-7 victory, Lakeville North football coach Brian Vossen praised the efforts of senior RaJa Nelson.

With Shakopee needing a first down to prolong its drive and season, Nelson intercepted a late fourth-quarter pass attempt and iced the Panthers’ triumph in a Class 6A quarterfinal Thursday at Stillwater High School.

“He’s the best cornerback – corner, back -- I’ve ever coached,” said Vossen, pausing to emphasize the position name.

Clarity was needed because Nelson also began playing quarterback this season. And his efforts behind center meant as much as the late-game interception.

On a night when penalties and near misses, coupled with a stout Shakopee defense, threatened to derail defending champion Lakeville North, Nelson found a way.

The go-ahead score came on his 7-yard touchdown run on fourth down with 4:56 left in the fourth quarter.

Lakeville North (10-1) ended the run of Shakopee (5-6), making its first state tournament appearance since 1981.

“We had to grind this harder than maybe we had hoped,” Vossen said. “I’m proud of every guy for continuing to believe we could win. Everyone is good at this stage and Shakopee played super tough.”

Lakeville North running back Logan Freeburg (4) looks for running room against the Shakopee defense. Photo: RICHARD TSONG-TAATARII ¥ richard.tsong-taatarii@startribune.com

First report

Defending state champion Lakeville North fended off upset-minded Shakopee in a 9-7 victory Thursday in a Class 6A quarterfinal at Stillwater High School.

The go-ahead score, quarterback RaJa Nelson’s 7-yard touchdown run on fourth down, came with 4:56 left in the fourth quarter. Nelson, who also plays cornerback, iced the game with an interception.

Shakopee scored its only points late in the second quarter on an 11-yard run by quarterback David Bigaouette, giving the Sabers a 7-0 lead at halftime. 

Lakeville North narrowed the margin to 7-3 with a field goal in the third quarter.

Lakeville North (10-1) ended the run of Shakopee (5-6), making its first state tournament appearance since 1981.

Check back later for more on the game.

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