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Second-half drives propel Dassel-Cokato past Plainview-Elgin-Millville in Class 3A

By DAVID LA VAQUE, Star Tribune, 11/27/21, 1:00PM CST


Chargers running back Eli Gillman rushed for 150 yards and three touchdowns.

Dassel-Cokato's Eli Gillman upended Plainview-Elgin-Millville's Kyler Lamb in the fourth quarter. ALEX KORMANN, Star Tribune

Eli Gillman and Hayden Hoernemann felt bad for the Dassel-Cokato seniors who fell one game short of a football state championship two years ago, and last year’s group who lost a state tournament chance to the coronavirus.

Those experiences deepened their satisfaction with the Chargers’ 28-21 victory Saturday against Plainview-Elgin-Millville in the Class 3A Prep Bowl at U.S. Bank Stadium. Top-ranked Dassel-Cokato (14-0) won its first football state championship.

“It’s definitely satisfying to finish the job we started two years ago,” Hoernemann said.

The Chargers completed their tasks all afternoon. Items checked off their to-do list included moving the chains. They went 4-for-4 on fourth down conversions. That proficiency led to another check mark next to finishing drives. Two of Dassel-Cokato’s drives were truncated by halftime and the game’s end. The other four went for touchdowns.

Senior running back Eli Gillman ran for three of those scores, part of his 32-carry, 150-yard performance.

No. 9 Plainview-Elgin-Millville (11-3) couldn’t find an answer.

“They have a really good offensive line, and their running backs fall forward,” senior lineman Cody Schneider said. “They know how to get that extra yard.”

Somewhere during the Chargers' second drive, which lasted 9 minutes, 30 seconds, it became clear that Plainview-Elgin-Millville wouldn’t win the time-of-possession category. It mattered little.

The Bulldogs matched each of Dassel-Cokato’s first two scoring drives. Their second score will be Prep Bowl highlight video material for years to come, a 46-yard hook and lateral for a touchdown late in the first half. Quarterback Connor McGuire found Kaiden Peters for the initial catch before Peters pitched the ball back to a streaking Jason Feils.

“It was definitely a good energy boost,” Bulldogs coach Kevin Lamb said.

The good vibes didn’t last. Dassel-Cokato resumed its march, led by nine Gillman carries for 39 yards. His efforts built a 21-14 lead.

Two weeks ago, in preparation for the state quarterfinals, the 6-foot, 200-pound Gillman set a personal best with a 315-pound max bench press. As the game wore on, Gillman felt the Bulldogs fade out.

“The offensive line gets a better push, and they start slipping off and not hitting as hard,” said Gillman, who committed to play football at Montana. “You can start to feel them wearing down.”

Keyton Johnson gave the Chargers a 28-14 lead, but Plainview-Elgin-Millville didn’t quit. McGuire hit Hunter Tentis for a 9-yard touchdown pass and the Bulldogs trailed by only a touchdown. Then they recovered the ensuing onside kick.

Four consecutive incomplete passes nullified the Bulldogs’ threat.

“We don’t lose our heads when something doesn’t go our way,” Gillman said. “We just make them line up again. If they’re going to get something, we’re going to make them earn it.”

First report

Dassel-Cokato won its first Prep Bowl state championship, escaping Plainview-Elgin-Millville for a 28-21 victory Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The top-ranked Chargers (14-0) secured the Class 3A title in the second half by taking charge in what had started as a back-and-forth offensive display. They manufactured two touchdown drives while limiting the Bulldogs to just one.

No. 9 Plainview-Elgin-Millville (11-3) tied the score at 14-14 only seconds before halftime on a perfectly executed hook-and-lateral play for a 46-yard touchdown.

Senior running back Eli Gillman finished with 32 carries for 150 yards. He ran for three of the Chargers’ touchdowns.

Dassel-Cokato previously took second in 1972 and 2019.

Plainview-Elgin-Millville senior Martin Prieto set a Prep Bowl record with 24 tackles, one ahead of teammate Peyton Schumacher.

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