St. Croix Lutheran's Jackson Goplen
In Saturday's Class 3A Prep Bowl shootout between Fairmont and St. Croix Lutheran, it was Goplen who shone the brightest. The junior scored three second-half touchdowns, helping the Crusaders to their first state title with a 34-32 victory over the Cardinals.
"It still really hasn't sunk in quite yet," Goplen said of his team's accomplishment. "It was just so much fun, and everybody just played their hearts out. It was definitely the best game for us all year."
His great feel for the game was crucial on both sides of the ball. He finished with 16 carries for 101 yards and two touchdowns rushing, and added a 28-yard touchdown reception that put his team ahead for good. At linebacker, he recorded eight tackles and recovered a fumble.
"He is a great athlete who gives his total self on every play," Crusaders coach Carl Lemke said of Goplen. "He displays natural leadership as a captain, and his role on the team is to make it happen on both offense and defense."
But after helping the Crusaders to a perfect 14-0 season, Goplen won't get much time to kick back and sit on his couch.
"I think we might get a week off, then basketball starts soon," he said.
The future Gopher was as good as advertised, scoring seven goals -- including both game-winners -- in victories over Minnetonka and Stillwater. The senior forward's effort against the Skippers included a natural hat trick that turned a 4-2 second-period deficit into a 5-4 victory for the Pioneers.
Against a swarming Wayzata defense, the Eagles senior running back came through in the Class 5A championship game against the defending state champions. Larson carried 33 times for 124 yards, including a nifty 10-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter to wrap up Eden Prairie's seventh state title.
Neisen played a key role as the Mustangs beat two highly ranked Class 2A teams to win the Edina tournament over the weekend. The senior goalie stopped 44 shots in Friday's 3-0 shutout of Edina, then recorded 37 saves in a 4-3 overtime victory over Benilde-St. Margaret's on Saturday.