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Conversion try is déjà two all over again for Totino-Grace coach

By DAVID LA VAQUE, Star Tribune, 11/25/14, 8:58PM CST


A love-hate relationship with two-point conversions in big games continues for Totino-Grace football coach Jeff Ferguson.

St. Francis running back John Santiago leaves the Rogers defense in his dust as he runs for a touchdown during the first half of Friday night's game at Rogers High School. ] (Matthew Hintz, 091214, Rogers)

A love-hate relationship with two-point conversions in big games continues for Totino-Grace football coach Jeff Ferguson.

His underdog Eagles scored a touchdown with 1 minute, 39 seconds to play in last Friday’s Class 6A title game in the Prep Bowl, cutting Eden Prairie’s lead to 28-27. When Totino-Grace called a timeout before the point-after attempt, everyone knew what was next.

Sure enough, Totino-Grace went for it all.

Quarterback Lance Benick fired to Brady Bertram at the goal line. But Eden Prairie’s Matt Carson jarred the ball loose and it felt incomplete. Replays showed Carson arrived and made contact with Bertram a hair early. Eden Prairie survived to win its fourth consecutive state championship and 10th overall.

The scenario felt all too familiar for Ferguson. In 1996 he was in the stands watching Blaine, where he had previously been an assistant coach, in a Prep Bowl showdown with Eden Prairie. Defensive back Kevin Carney knocked down an attempted Blaine two-point conversion pass with 55 seconds left to preserve the Eagles’ 23-22 victory and first state championship.

Ferguson took the Totino-Grace head coaching job in 2002 and built his alma mater into a powerhouse. The Eagles have won seven state titles since 2003, though none came in the highest class.

Totino-Grace elected to play in Class 6A the past two seasons with the state’s largest schools and benefited from two-point conversion success. The Eagles edged Mounds View in the quarterfinals when the Mustangs’ two-point conversion pass failed to connect.

It was the second consecutive season the Eagles advanced to the 6A semifinals after denying a two-point conversion late in the fourth quarter. In 2013, Totino-Grace stopped Osseo’s attempt with 1:05 remaining to win 34-33.

Mr. Football finalists

Two north-metro athletes are among the 10 finalists for the Mr. Football award. Running backs Kez Flomo (Totino-Grace) and John Santiago (St. Francis) were honored for their great seasons. Flomo led the Eagles to the Prep Bowl, where he rushed for 152 yards and a touchdown. Santiago powered the Saints with 1,859 yards and 24 touchdowns.

The award will be presented at the Mr. Football Banquet at 8:30 a.m. Nov. 30 at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Minneapolis. The Mr. Football Award is sponsored by the Minnesota Football Coaches Association and the Vikings.

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