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Dassel-Cokato seizes on mistakes to reach first state tournament final in 47 years

By JIM PAULSEN, Star Tribune, 11/16/19, 4:45PM CST


The opportunistic Chargers defeated Annandale 24-14, clinching the game in the fourth quarter on an 87-yard touchdown run after recovering a fumble when the Cardinals were threatening to score..

Dassel-Cokato's Eli Gillman (87) took a handoff from quarterback Sanders Asplin (2) and ran for an 87-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Photo: Shari L. Gross ¥ shari.gross@startribune.com

Their lead in jeopardy, Dassel-Cokato defensive players were ready to stop bending. It was time to stand firm.

They did, forcing an Annandale fumble near their own goal line with 3:45 left in the game Saturday, preventing a likely go-ahead touchdown and turning momentum squarely to the Chargers.

Three plays later, sophomore running back Eli Gillman scored his third touchdown of the game, racing 87 yards with a game-clinching touchdown and securing a 24-14 victory for Dassel-Cokato in a Class 3A semifinal at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Chargers earned their first Prep Bowl berth in team history.

“We’ve had six or seven games this year that were one-score games,” Dassel-Cokato coach Ryan Weinandt said. “We’ve been in these games before and these guys have shown a ton of resiliency.”

The game could hardly have started better for the Chargers (10-3). Annandale fumbled at the Dassel-Cokato 5-yard line on its opening drive, the first of a series of mistakes that led to a 17-0 lead for the Chargers.

Gillman scored from 3 yards out after the fumble. Dassel-Cokato bumped that to 14-0 after a blocked punt gave them the ball deep in Annandale territory and Gillman scored again on a 2-yard run.

First report

Annandale’s fourth crucial mistake of the game proved too much for the Cardinals to overcome, falling to Dassel-Cokato 24-14 in a Class 3A semifinal at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The Chargers built a 17-0 first-half lead Saturday aided by an Annandale fumble, a blocked punt and Annandale’s inability to cover a kickoff.

The Cardinals (11-2) battled back, however, cutting the lead to 17-14 late in the third quarter. They looked poised to score the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter after getting a first-and-goal at the Dassel-Cokato seven. But a fumble near the goal line, recovered by Dassel-Cokato, ended the threat.

Three plays later, with Annandale’s defense taking chances to try to regain possession, Chargers receiver Eli Gillman took a handoff and burst through the line of scrimmage, going 87 yards untouched for a game-clinching touchdown.

Dassel-Cokato (10-3) advanced to the Prep Bowl for the first time in team history. The Chargers reached the Class B championship game in 1972.

Check back later for more on the game.

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