Wayzata’s strategy for the Prep Bowl Class 6A title game against Champlin Park was no secret Nov. 29 at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Star senior running back Christian Vasser was going to carry the ball, and carry it often.
After rushing 49 times for 285 yards and five touchdowns, it was no surprise that Vasser was holding the championship trophy after the game. Wayzata’s 35-20 victory gave the school its fourth big-school football state championship. The other titles were won in 2005, 2008 and 2010 when Brad Anderson was the head coach.
Lambert Brown, who took over the coaching reins when Anderson retired after the 2016 season, was overwhelmed by Friday night’s win.
“I am really proud of the work our guys put in,” he said. “Coach Anderson gave the pregame talk today. After a game like this, you just want to enjoy the moment. This is why I got into coaching - to work with great kids.”
Friday night’s victory capped a 13-0 season for the Trojans. They only trailed twice all season - once in the Prior Lake game and for most of the first half against Champlin Park.
Wayzata went into halftime trailing the Rebels 17-14. But in the second half, it was all Wayzata, as Vasser scored his third, fourth and fifth touchdowns. The Trojans barely had to pass. Senior quarterback Thomas Schmidt completed one of four attempts for 26 yards.
The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Vasser was able to pick his spots with a big offensive line opening the holes. During the regular season, Vasser often favored the left side, but in the championship game he found a comfort zone behind right guard Graham Viggers and right tackle Tyler Magnuson.
“This is all about the team,” Vasser said in the postgame press conference. “I would trust the offensive line with my life.”
On two of Wayzata’s scoring drives, Vasser carried on every play. He got into a rhythm with the offensive line, and Champlin Park’s secondary had the task of trying to tackle the big Wayzata back.
“There’s no question our offensive line played really, really well,” coach Brown said.
Wayzata’s defense had trouble containing Champlin Park quarterback Jace Miller in the first half, but that changed in the second half due to a few halftime adjustments.
To stop the quarterback draw that was so effective in the first half, Brown said, “We put an extra hat in the box.”
Miller, who is going to the University of Minnesota as a wide receiver, was stuffed on his first two draw attempts in the second half, so the Rebels looked to Plan B - more carries for running back Shawn Shipman along with roll-out passes. Noah Vogelpahl’s 26-yard field goal supplied the Rebels with their only points in the second half.
“Wayzata executed a little bit better than we did,” said Champlin Park head coach Nick Keenan, whose team finished the season with a 10-2 record. “Each team had good scoring drives, but two of ours ended with field goals. We dropped a few passes, missed a few tackles late in the game and forced only one turnover.”
Miller talked about Champlin Park’s offense in the first half.
“With our spread [formation], the middle was open for quarterback draws,” he said. “It hurts to fall short of our ultimate goal, but I am proud of my teammates.”
There were several big plays that worked in Wayzata’s favor, including a 76-yard kick-off return by Sam Robertson to set up one of Vasser’s touchdowns.
Wayzata’s defense relied on balance, with all 11 players swarming to the ball for tackles and assists. Cole Brown led the Trojans with six tackles, four of them solos. Matthew Schmidt and Luke Deselich each had six tackles, as well, while Anthony Ukofia and Joe Demro each made five stops. Defensive lineman Malakai Jackson helped Wayzata close down the quarterback draw in the second half.
Vasser talked about Wayzata’s perfect season as the press conference came to a close.
“The championship is the result of three years of hard work and three years of trust,” he said.
“Thirteen-and-oh is all we have to say,” Viggers added. “It was a perfect season.”
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