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Lakeville North Holds Off Lakeville South, Advances To Section 1 Final
Posted by Guest (jmillea@mshsl.org) - Updated 10/30/2011 7:09:21 PM

By Luke Sleeper, John’s Journal Correspondent

Just three weeks ago, the Lakeville North Panthers practically ran their crosstown rival Lakeville South out of town. The score was 30-6 but it might as well have been 100-6. The Cougars were embarrassed, and after another lopsided loss the following week to Prior Lake, they were on the verge of implosion.

The October 7 win propelled the Panthers to an undefeated regular season and a South Suburban Conference championship. North coach Brian Vossen elected to give his team five days off during the bye week they were given as the No. 1 seed in Class 5A Section 1.

“Our guys came out to practice on Tuesday after the break feeling fresh,” Vossen said. “We rely so much on speed, especially on defense, so I felt the days off would help a lot.”

While the Panthers were resting, Lakeville South was once again finding its winning stride. Back-to-back big victories against Burnsville and Rochester Mayo seemed to help regain the confidence South had lost in the previous weeks. The Cougars would be without star receiver Matt Heller, though, after he suffered a concussion in the first-round playoff game against Mayo.

On Friday might, South came out firing in the first half against North. Vossen confessed before the game that he hoped to be more deceptive with his blitz calls this time around, but the Panthers pass rush was practically non-existent in the first half. South quarterback Mitch Leidner had plenty of time to find his receivers, methodically moving the ball down field for two Cougar scoring drives in the first 24 minutes, which included a big 39-yard touchdown pass to Trent Bertamus.

After a first half in which South found itself down 14-6 with just two Trey Heid field goals to its name, Lakeville North was forced to make a few adjustments for the second half. “Where is the O-Show?” was the question given to the Panthers at half, referring to the nickname the Panther offensive players have given themselves this season. Vossen also admitted that he might have gotten a little too technical with his defensive play calling.

“We offered too much respect (to their passing game) in the first half. Sometimes it’s good to go back to the basics. You try so hard to disguise things and do something different from last time, but once we just started covering and blitzing the way we always do the pressure started to find No. 7 like we had hoped.”

The pressure did find Leidner in the second half, as he was noticeably more uncomfortable in the pocket due to three Panther sacks and some big hits on the future Golden Gopher. After a great first half, the Cougars failed to score the rest of the game.

Quarterback Heid and the Panther “O-Show” came out of hiding in the second half, due mainly to a strong rushing attack from Heid and running back Brandon Morgan. The first Panther touchdown came through the air, a 37-yard catch by Charlie Hayes. A two-point conversion tied the score 14-14. A 12-yard touchdown run by Kevin Eskuri gave Lakeville North its first lead near the end of the third quarter.

With the score 21-14 in the middle of the fourth quarter, the Cougar offense was driving and hoping to tie the score. A Leidner touchdown pass to Devon Bzoskie was negated by a controversial offensive pass-interference penalty. Moments later, a South fumble halted their chances at a comeback. Another Heid field goal made the score 24-14, where it would remain for the rest of the game.

Despite losing the tough game, South coach Larry Thompson had nothing but praise for the third-ranked Panthers and Vossen, his former player and assistant coach.

“They are a great team and deserved to win. I know they will make it to the state tournament and I will be rooting for them from here on out. They have what it takes to go far.”

Next Friday, Lakeville North will host a 9-1 Owatonna team that has not given up a point in two playoff games.

–Luke Sleeper is a journalism student at the University of Minnesota


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