Owatonna High School football teams have played in three Prep Bowls, finishing as the state runner-up each time. The Huskies will get another crack at a state championship on Nov. 30 at the Metrodome, meeting the winner of Saturday night’s Class 5A semifinal between Brainerd and Chaska.
The first Owatonna team to get to the Prep Bowl was the 1982 squad. Doug Wanous, then in 11th grade, was the starting center on that team, which lost to Stillwater 34-27. That ’82 squad has lived in local lore for all these years as the team that set the bar for every team since then.
Doug Wanous was a very proud man Friday afternoon after the Huskies defeated St. Michael-Albertville 27-7. He’s an English teacher at the school and coaches the offensive line. Wanous posed for a photo with his son Luke -- a senior tight end and linebacker – as they celebrated a special father-and-son experience.
Doug played in the very first Prep Bowl held in the Metrodome and Luke will play in the last one before the building is torn down.
“It’s kind of a beautiful thing,” Doug said.
Owatonna lost to Totino-Grace 49-21 in last year’s 5A Prep Bowl. So Friday’s victory gives Luke some bragging rights; two Prep Bowls to his father’s one.
“I have not stopped hearing about it, ever since I was born,” Luke said with a giant smile. “He’s always been, ‘Oh, my class in ’82…’ Guess what? I’m back to back, I’ve one-upped him.”
And Doug couldn’t be more proud.
“The cool thing is, I’ve taken Luke to the semifinal games here since he was in third grade. This is really where he’s learned the game of football. We’d be able to look at various techniques, various defenses, various offenses and personnel. This dome is a pretty special place to both of us.”
Luke led the Huskies (12-0) with seven tackles Friday and also broke up a pass. The Owatonna defense held St. Michael-Albertville (10-2) to 49 rushing yards. The Huskies’ Aaron Peterson carried 30 times for 170 yards and two touchdowns and Ian Langeberg completed nine of 12 passes for 85 yards and a score. St. Michael-Albertville’s Jackson Greenwaldt completed nine of 24 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown.
“It’s unbelievable,” Luke said of returning to the Prep Bowl. “This is what we’ve been working for our whole lives, since when we started playing as little kids.”
With Doug’s athletic background and the strong Owatonna sports traditions, Luke was all but destined to be a part of it.
“The ’82 dome team was always talked about,” Doug said. “That was what our community kind of rallied around. And so Luke had no choice but to be inundated into that community.
“To see him experience this is really a wonderful thing. Somebody said to me, ‘I hope things work out for your son,’ and I said ‘It already has.’ ”
BACK TO BACK FOR GRAND MEADOW
The Grand Meadow Superlarks played in the Prep Bowl a year ago, losing to Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley in the nine-man championship game. Looking at that senior-dominated team, any thoughts of back-to-back appearances seemed a little like whimsy. That’s because the Superlarks gathered for the 2013 season with only three returning starters.
But here they are, a high school with only 94 students and a football team with only 24 players in uniform, back in the Prep Bowl. The Superlarks defeated Kittson County Central 21-7 in Friday’s semifinals.
Grand Meadow (12-1) will meet Underwood (10-3) in the championship game on Nov. 29. Underwood advanced to its first Prep Bowl with a 34-20 win over Ely on Thursday.
Is it miraculous that Grand Meadow is back in the Prep Bowl? No, it’s heart.
“We have a lot of inexperienced guys out there,” said Grand Meadow coach Gary Sloan. “I think the kids are just playing with a lot of heart.”
Last year’s Metrodome experience is certainly a factor, because playing in the big stadium for the first time often produces a deer-in-the-headlights scenario.
“I think (last year’s experience) was important,” Sloan said. “Even the guys that maybe didn’t play last year, they got the experience of being around the sideline, doing all the fun things that go with it. We talk about not letting the game be bigger than you, and I think the kids are up to the challenge.”
The Grand Meadow-Kittson game may have set a record for mileage between two high school opponents in the Metrodome. Kittson County Central is in Hallock in northwest Minnesota and Grand Meadow is in the southeastern part of the state. They are 500 miles apart.
Due to the distance, the Grand Meadow coaches weren’t able to scout the Bearcats in person.
“We had two games from them on video, and my coaches did a really good job of putting together a scouting report,” Sloan said. “Kittson’s got a heck of a good team; I wouldn’t want to play them again.”
Grand Meadow was led by Landon Jacobson (pictured), who rushed 33 times for 202 yards and a touchdown. Kittson quarterback Drew Olsonawski completed 15 of 27 passes for 219 yards and a touchdown.
CLASS 2A/ CHATFIELD 41, HAWLEY 21
The Gophers scored the game’s first 28 points and advanced to the Prep Bowl, where they will meet the Minneota Vikings. Jacob Neis was the offensive star for Chatfield, carrying 26 times for 233 yards and four touchdowns. Alex Brandt rushed 15 times for 155 yards and the Gophers (12-1) finished with 484 total yards on the ground.
Hawley (10-2) quarterback Jordan Harms completed eight of 22 passes for 168 yards, with Ben Ellefson catching two passes for 103 yards.
CLASS 4A/ HOLY ANGELS 33, DELASALLE 21
After going 3-5 in the regular season, Holy Angels (7-5) extended its postseason winning streak to four games by defeating the Islanders (10-1). The Stars will play in the Prep Bowl on Nov. 29 against Hutchinson (12-0), which beat Delano 35-9 on Thursday.
Connor Moriarty rushed 23 times for 122 yards for the Stars and Danny Hoffman completed eight of 13 passes for 93 yards and a TD. Connor McCarthy ran for two touchdowns. For DeLaSalle, Chris Williams ran 28 times for 156 yards.
CLASS 6A/ EDEN PRAIRIE 47, TOTINO-GRACE 22
The Eden Prairie Eagles advanced to their third consecutive Prep Bowl with a dominating victory over the Totino-Grace Eagles. After a 7-7 first quarter, two-time defending champ Eden Prairie took control with 27 points in the second quarter. Eden Prairie (11-0) will meet Rosemount (11-1) in the Prep Bowl on Nov. 29.
--My favorite football semifinal nicknames: 1. Dawson-Boyd Blackjacks, 2. Hawley Nuggets, 3. Grand Meadow Superlarks, 4. Proctor Rails.
--My favorite mascots: Harley the Husky from Owatonna and Clarkthe Superlark from Grand Meadow.
Nine-man/ Underwood 34, Ely 20
Class 2A/ Minneota/Lincoln HI (12-0) vs. Maple Lake (8-4)
Class 4A/ Hutchinson 35, Delano 9
Class 6A/ Rosemount 35, Roseville 28
Nine-man/ Grand Meadow 21, Kittson Central 7
Class 2A/ Chatfield 41, Hawley 21
Class 5A/ Owatonna 27, St. Michael-Albertville 7
Class 4A/ Holy Angels 33, DeLaSalle 21
Class 6A/ Eden Prairie 47, Totino-Grace 22
9 a.m.: Class 1A/ Dawson-Boyd (11-1) vs. Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s (12-0)
11:30 a.m.: Class 1A/ Mahnomen (12-0) vs. Bethlehem Academy (9-3)
2 p.m.: Class 3A/ Proctor (9-2) vs. St. Croix Lutheran (9-2)
4:30 p.m.: Class 3A/ New London-Spicer (9-2) vs. Rochester Lourdes (10-1)
7 p.m.: Class 5A/ Brainerd (11-0) vs. Chaska (11-0)
--Diet Coke Count: 4 for the day, 9 for the state football tournament, 30 for the fall state tournaments.
BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited:165
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 5,164
(*During the 2013-14 school year)
Follow John on Twitter: @MSHSLjohn