Owatonna's Chris Lewis (75) stood over Elk River's Cody Newhouse (71) after stopping Elks quarterback Tyler Leshovsky (7) from running the ball in the second half. Photo: ANTHONY SOUFFLE • firstname.lastname@example.org
He sports a bandana tied across his forehead. Eye black covers the parts of his face not taken up by a beard he’s been growing since his junior year. With a jersey torn at the armpit from battles in the trenches, Owatonna defensive tackle Chris Lewis looks every bit the part of hardscrabble nose-tackle.
He plays like it, too.
Lewis and his Owatonna defensive mates did Friday what so many other teams have tried and failed to achieve: shut down Elk River’s vaunted power-T running game. The Huskies held Elk River, which had averaged more the 400 yards rushing per game, to just 125 yards on the ground en route to a 39-8 victory in the Class 5A semifinal at U.S. Bank Stadium.
“Our defense has been really salty against the run all year,” Owatonna coach Jeff Williams said. “Elk River runs the ball better than anybody we’ve seen over the last three years. To be able to hold these guys to eight, that’s a major accomplishment.”
The job of Lewis, a 5-11, 281-pound senior who would fit in well in biker movies, was to clog the middle of the Elk River offensive line. He did so with flair, chalking up 3½ tackles, including one for loss, and demanding and defeating the attention of numerous Elk River offensive linemen.
Owatonna tailback Jason Williamson (22) evaded a tackle by Elk River running back Jon Suchy (32) in the second half. Photo: ANTHONY SOUFFLE • email@example.com
Owatonna did the expected – give the ball to Jason Williamson – and the unexpected – shut down Elk River’s vaunted Power T offense – en route to a 39-8 victory in the Class 5A semifinals.
Williamson, the senior running back who had been unstoppable through Owatonna’s postseason run, looked a bit more mortal against the Elks, but still rushed for 204 yards and five touchdowns. He had averaged more than 400 yards rushing in the Huskies’ first three playoff games.
Having played Elk River in the state tournament in each of the past two seasons, Owatonna’s defense clogged the middle against Elk River and didn’t allow the Elks the explosive runs that are a hallmark of their offense. The only Elks touchdown came through the air on a 44-yard pass from quarterback Tyler Leshovsky to Carter Otto in the third quarter. Elk River was held to 126 yards rushing.
Elk River (10-2) defeated Owatonna in the 2016 Class 5A semifinals. Owatonna returned the favor, defeating Elk River in the 2017 championship game.
Check back later for more on the game.