After his team outlasted Wayzata 14-7 in the Class 6A quarterfinals Thursday, St. Michael-Albertville coach Jared Essler — with his jubilant players gathered around — pulled out a piece of paper and held it up.
The word “Karma” was scrawled across it in big, black letters. The players cheered wildly.
In a season in which the breaks seemed to fall the wrong way often, it was about time something went the Knights’ way.
“There were a lot of games that we felt we should have won and could have won,” Essler said. “We just kept saying ‘Good things happen to good people. Good things happen to people that work hard. We felt like we’ve done things the right way all year and had some ups and downs. Now we’re getting rewarded.”
With the victory, St. Michael-Albertville (7-4) advances to the Class 6A semifinals. They’ll play either Lakeville South or Shakopee next Friday.
Much of that that good karma was riding shotgun on the shoulders of senior Jarrett Bennett. He stepped in and played at running back more than expected after teammate Max Keefer went down with an injury in the first quarter.
He responded with his best game of the season. Bennett ran for two touchdowns, including a game-winning 25-yard burst with 1:58 left to put St. Michael-Albertville ahead.
“They needed me when [Keefer] went down,” Bennett said. “I said ‘I’ll step up and do it.’”
Bennett also played the entire game at defensive back and made a huge play in the waning moments. A last-second pass by Wayzata sailed toward a wide-open Trojan standing at the goal line. Bennett recovered and got to the receiver just as the ball got there and dislodged the ball, which skittered away harmlessly as time ran out.
“He must have played about 100 plays snaps at that time,” Essler said. “He’s a dude.”
“There was nothing better than seeing the ball bounce away in the end zone,” Bennett said. “We’re going to the Bank, baby!”
Wayzata (8-3) defeated St. Michael-Albertville 34-14 when the teams met in September. The Knights’ defense was determined to keep the game closer this time around.
Wayzata, leaning heavily into its running game, managed to put together some long, clock-controlling drives, but only one ended in points as the Knights repeatedly turned them away.
They stopped Wayzata three times on fourth down and short, most notably on a goal-line stand on the Trojans’ opening drive to get the ball back on the 1-yard line.
“It kind of hurts,” Wayzata coach Lambert Brown said. “We just didn’t capitalize on a lot of opportunities. We had ton of chances to make things happened and didn’t. When you’re playing a good football team, they take advantage of that.”
Jarrett Bennett took a handoff and cutback through the defense and scored on a 25-yard run with 1:58 left to give St. Michael-Albertville a 14-7 victory over Wayzata.
In a game dominated by short runs, Bennett’s burst was the longest run of the game for either team.
St. Michael-Albertville avenged an early-season loss to Wayzata and won its third straight game for the first time this season.
Wayzata got to the St. Michael-Albertville 19 in the game’s final seconds, but the Trojans' final pass fell incomplete.