Lakeville North wide receiver RaJa Nelson (7) caught a long pass before running it in for a touchdown in the second half. Photo: ANTHONY SOUFFLE • firstname.lastname@example.org
There’s no ego and no selfishness to Lakeville North. There is, however, an unending supply of confidence. The Panthers reiterated their claim to being the premier team in Class 6A by routing St. Michael-Albertville 35-8 at TCO Stadium.
As they have all season, the Panthers took an opponent’s game plan and shredded it with a physically dominating style that is impossible to match.
They scored quickly in the state tournament quarterfinal Friday, forcing two fumbles that resulted touchdowns, and staked themselves to a 14-0 lead before the game was four minutes old. When they weren’t scoring, they were pounding on their opponents, not just shutting them down but wearing them out.
Running back Brian Curtis expressed the Panthers’ credo simply: “It’s a team effort. One weak link and teams can take advantage of that.”
Curtis was the standout performer for the Lakeville North offense, carrying the ball 29 times for 183 yards and a touchdown. With brutal, blustery field conditions, Curtis was prepared for a heavy load.
“We’ve been trying to throw the ball more, but the weather makes it kind of hard,” he said. “The run game has been effective all year, so why stop it?”
There was no miracle comeback this time.
Lakeville North scored 21 points in the first quarter and cruised for the last three, defeating St. Michael-Albertville 35-8 on Friday at TCO Performance Center in Eagan.
The Panthers advance to next week’s Class 6A semifinals in the comfort of the warmth at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Brian Curtis rushed 29 times for 183 yards and a touchdown for the No. 1-ranked Panthers, who also got rushing touchdowns from quarterback Brennan Kuebler and running back Raja Nelson. Nelson added a 57-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter,
The Lakeville North defense was heard from as well, scoring on a 20-yard fumble return by Preston Palmer in the first quarter. Landon Carter swooped in from his defensive end position and knocked the ball out of St. Michael-Albertville quarterback Jared Duda’s hands and straight into Palmer’s, who raced untouched into the end zone.
St. Michael-Albertville was coming off a miraculous comeback victory over Edina in its previous outing, rallying from a 28-0 fourth quarter deficit to win 29-28. But Lakeville North’s defense kept the Knights at bottled up until a late touchdown by backup running back Nick Eicher made the final score 35-8.
The victory sets up a juicy matchup in the Class 6A quarterfinals, pitting Lakeville North against intra-district rival Lakeville South, which defeated Woodbury 28-14. Lakeville North won the previous meeting between the two teams 28-3 on Sept. 21.
Check back later for more on the game.