Lakeville North running back Brian Curtis Jr. (28) was held up by his jersey as he ran toward the end zone in the first half. Photo: ANTHONY SOUFFLE • firstname.lastname@example.org
It started with Brian Curtis Jr. and veered into Raja Nelson. Together, Lakeville North’s two stellar running backs lifted the Panthers to a 35-13 victory over Lakeville South on Friday in the Class 6A semifinals and into next Friday’s Prep Bowl.
Running behind a big and physical offensive line, they took turns gashing Lakeville South and slowly siphoning the life out of the upstart Cougars, whose late-season surge came to a halt.
Curtis, a senior who balances power and shiftiness, rushed for 214 yards on 25 carries, getting better with each run. Nelson, a junior, used his slashing, big-play style to gain 174 yards. Curtis scored one touchdown, Nelson had three.
“We feed off each other,” Nelson said. “Brian gets a big run, then I know it’s my turn.
The first half followed a pattern that Lakeville North coach Brian Vossen predicted. Knowing that possessions would be few, owing to both teams’ proclivity towards running the football, he wanted to make the most of each one. He even thought his team might have to weather an early blow from the Cougars.
After North went three-and-out on its opening drive, South moved crisply downfield and took a 7-0 lead on a 31-yard run by Johnny Shabaz.
“We felt if Lakeville South was going to have success, it was going to be early,” Vossen said. “We just had to stay the course.”