Returning to the state Class AAA championship game after a one year absence, the St. Croix Lutheran Crusaders got plenty of offense and two touchdowns from Trever Koester to beat the New London-Spicer Wildcats 48-44 Saturday afternoon at the Metrodome.
It was the second state title for the West St. Paul based school in their fourth state tournament appearance and their first since 2011. It was also the highest scoring game in Prep Bowl history since Cromwell beat Lanesboro 49-42 in the 2010 Nine Man championship game and Triton beat Luverne 70-21 in the 2006 Class AA final.
The first quarter resembled a track meet on the speedy Metrodome turf. On the Crusaders first play from scrimmage, Koester ran 68 yards for a touchdown. The Wildcats came back after Chris Nelson recovered a Hans Klingenschmitt fumble and Adam Essler sped 67 yards into the end zone to cut the lead to one. New London-Spicer vaulted into the lead as senior quarterback Ryan Vraa threw a high 52 yard touchdown pass with 1;43 left and they lead 14-7.
St. Croix Lutheran scored six seconds into the second quarter as David Ponath threw a 35 yard touchdown pass to Josh Galkowski. New London-Spicer struck back as Esssler scored on a 48 yard run up the middle. Koester would even the score at 20 one a one yard touchdown run.
Both teams tallied in the third quarter. The Crusaders took the lead on Ponath’s 35 yard left side touchdown pass to Klingenschmitt. The lead was short-lived as Vraa completed a 37 yard touchdown pass with 1:27 and a successful two point conversion put the Wildcats in front.
Ponath threw his third touchdown pass of the game in the fourth quarter when he connected with Caleb Olson from 28 yards. Then Joe Werz, on his first carry ran 69 yards up the middle to put St. Croix Lutheran ahead by 14. New London-Spicer was not done yet as Vraa scrambled to the right and threw a 35 yard touchdown pass to Jarrett Hatlestad, Klingenschmitt would cling into the end zone on a 10 yard run for the Crusaders and the Wildcats came close as Hatlestad took the kickoff, lateraled to Essler and he ran 64 yards into the end zone.
St. Croix Lutheran had 572 yards in total offense. Klingenschmitt had 22 carries for 177 yards and Koester ran 20 times for 139 yards. New London-Spicer was led by Essler with 21 carries for a game high 195 yards.
The Crusaders concluded their season 11-2. The Wildcats ended the season with a 10-3 record.