In a game featuring two top-10 teams in Class 5A, it was only fitting that it would take all 60 minutes to find a winner.
For most of the game, it seemed like No. 6 Armstrong was the team that would come out on top. They took a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and maintained it midway through the fourth quarter.
But No. 5 Chanhassen had other plans. They rallied from the big deficit to not only tie the game, but take the lead late in the fourth quarter after going for two from running back Maxwell Woods’ third touchdown of the night with 3:37 remaining.
Down 29-28 and with their backs against the wall, the Falcons engineered a scoring drive to retake the lead. From Chanhassen’s 17-yard line, quarterback Jamen Malone rolled to his right and found wide receiver Cade Berg just beyond the goal line for the go-ahead touchdown with 22 seconds left.
The Storm reached Armstrong’s 28-yard line with the time remaining for one last hail mary, but the pass fell incomplete. The Falcons (5-0) continued their unbeaten season with a 34-29 win, giving Chanhassen (4-1) their first loss of the season in an instant classic.
Even though Armstrong’s final score came through the air, it was the ground game that fueled their final drive. Malone and running back Reggie Carter contributed a majority of the yards on the drive with their legs, with a couple pass plays sprinkled in.
Chanhassen took advantage of Armstrong’s offense stalling after the first quarter. Malone was 11 of 16 passing but had just 89 yards and threw an interception. He also lost a fumble.
Another big reason the Storm came back into the game was the performance of Woods. The standout running back has rushed for over 100 yards in each game he has played in this year, and the Falcons found out firsthand how he’s been able to run so effectively.
Even when the Armstrong defense thought they had Woods wrapped up, he would slip out of a tackle and pick up a first down. Or when the Falcons thought they would tackle him for a loss, he would turn it into a positive run. It took multiple defenders every time Woods touched the ball to bring him down.
Not only was he elusive between the tackles, he was uncatchable in the open field. Every time he turned the corner it felt like he could break off a long run. He ran for two touchdowns and added another score through the air.
Armstrong punched Chanhassen in the mouth with a near perfect first quarter. Marquan Tucker took the opening kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown. On the Storm’s first drive, quarterback Grant Muffenbier had his pass tipped and intercepted by linebacker Drew Kuempel, setting up a short field for the Falcons’ offense.
Carter scored his first touchdown of the game from 28 yards out, making it 14-0. Chanhassen and Armstrong traded punts in the quarter, but Berg was able to land his at the 1-yard line. It led to the Storm going three-and-out and punting with very little room to spare.
Tyler Smith’s punt only reached the 18-yard line, setting up the Falcons in the red zone with time winding down in the first. Carter wasted no time in extending Armstrong’s lead, scoring on an 18-yard run to make it 21-0.
On homecoming night in front of their crowd, the Falcons were clearly ready to put on a show. But that momentum didn’t last forever.
Chanhassen stuck to their plan of funneling their offense through Woods. The Storm finally got on the board with 6:29 left in the second quarter on a 20-yard catch and run from Woods.
On the Falcons’ next drive, Malone hoisted a deep ball down the field into double coverage and was picked off. It was an ill-advised throw that gave Chanhassen more momentum.
They capitalized on the turnover with an 18-yard scramble by Muffenbier to cut into the deficit 21-14. They forced Armstrong into a three-and-out on the next drive and had a chance to tie the game before half, but were unsuccessful.
Nonetheless, they received the ball to start the third quarter and did tie the game. Woods showcased his game-breaking speed with a 42-yard run to tie it at 21. The Falcons couldn’t stop Woods and their own offense was sputtering.
It didn’t help that Malone fumbled on a quarterback carry on the next drive. All of a sudden, Chanhassen had all the momentum.
It was then the defense finally picked up and made some plays, led by defensive end Langdon College. He made a key tackle to prevent a big play on second down and recorded a sack on third down to get the Storm’s offense off the field. It was a big night for the junior, registering 3 sacks and 4 tackles for loss.
Neither team got on the board again until the fourth quarter. Armstrong retook the lead at 28-21 from Carter’s third rushing score of the night from 6 yards out with 8:15 remaining. Carter finished with 27 carries for 165 yards.
Woods and the Chanhassen offense had one more score in them, coming with just under 4 minutes left in the game. Once again, Woods turned the corner and ran in for the score from 37 yards away to make it 28-27.
The Storm elected to go for two and no one could blame them. Their rushing attack was working and to get a road win over a team like Armstrong would’ve been huge. They ran a jet sweep with Woods running in motion to the right. Everyone on the field and in the stands knew Woods would get the ball and he still converted the two-point conversion.
Unfortunately for them, there was just a little too much time on the clock left for Armstrong to take the lead themselves.
Even though Armstrong’s offense struggled in the second and third quarters, when it mattered most they pulled through. Winning a game of this magnitude will surely have the Falcons climb in the next set of rankings, only furthering their belief they are one of the best teams in Class 5A.
Armstrong’s next contest will be a road game at Apple Valley (2-2) on Thursday, Oct. 6.