Champlin Park football players and coaches joined fans and parents on the Park Center High School field Nov. 7 following a 34-7 drubbing of Rosemount in the Class 6A state quarterfinals.
There was dancing and jumping and a team effort with the school fight song, which was much like the team effort in the game that helped the Rebels (9-1 overall) run away from the Fighting Irish (7-4) on a frigid evening.
“I am so excited,” senior quarterback Jaice Miller said. “I have been wanting to play (at U.S. Bank Stadium) all year. I go every year to watch the state games, and for me to be playing there next week is crazy.”
Miller was one of many stars, finishing 10-for-16 for 114 yards, two touchdowns and an interception and with 87 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries, which includes two kneel downs at the end of the game.
Senior running back Rashard Scott and sophomore running back Darius Givance filled in for injured junior running back Shawn Shipman with a combined 127 yards on 28 carries. Givance also caught three passes for 35 yards and a touchdown.
Senior wide receiver Brock Johnson caught five passes for 63 yards and a touchdown. Junior Evan Hammonds also added an 11-yard reception, and junior Ty Givance finished with a catch for five yards.
The offensive line continued to dominate at the line of scrimmage, which helped open up holes for 4.8 yards per carry – not including the victory formation plays. The starters on the line were seniors Tyrone Robinson, Mood Jihad and Tyler Guckeen and juniors Riley Ampig and Bud Stark.
“All year, they have been creating huge holes for Shipman, and Shipman was out today, so they helped Shard and Darius to step up with those big holes that were out there, including for me tonight,” Miller said.
And then there was the defense, which created three turnovers and held Rosemount to 126 total yards. Junior Cam Hammonds had an interception and a fumble recovery, and junior Edmund Ocansey added an interception with an assist to a helmet.
The Fighting Irish were held to just four possessions, no first downs and one yard in the second half.
“We played really well on defense all year, so we expect that – bot that we are arrogant but the guys read their keys and everybody does their job,” coach Nick Keenan said. “Darius and Rashard stepped up, and the offensive line played lights out.”
Miller scored on 12-yard and 5-yard runs in the first half, with his second touchdown proving to be the game-winner.
In the second half, Miller hit Darius Givance on a screen pass, and Givance ran 18 yards for the score. He also hit Johnson on a 24-yard touchdown pass on a third-and-18 to open the fourth quarter and added a 25-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
But the night began with some adversity after Miller’s first pass was intercepted by junior Riley Gruenes. The defense was able to force a four-and-out to get Miller and the offense the ball back, but the offense was forced to punt on what would have been a three-and-out.
That was until a roughing the kicker penalty gave the Rebels an automatic first down. Miller capitalized on his next chance with two passes to Johnson for 34 yards and two runs for 18 yards, including his 12-yard score.
“First play of the game, that wakes me up throwing that pick,” Miller said. “I had to talk to my offense. They were still in it I had to really start leading them once I threw that first interception. I think I did that the rest of the game, and it shows on the scoreboard.”
That wasn’t the only adversity that the offense faced, however. During the practice week, Shipman was deemed unable to go after he tried to rehab quickly. That meant Darius Givance and Scott would be needed, and that Miller would be given more carries, as well.
“I found out today that Shipman wasn’t going to play, and my coach asked if I was willing to run the ball more, and I said, ‘Of course,’” Miller said.
Givance and Miller combined for 32 carries, but Scott was also needed to spell Givance at the end of the game. Scott had all but one of his carries in the fourth quarter and helped get two first downs on a possession that took over eight minutes off the clock.
That next-man-up mentality is one of the reasons why Champlin Park is now two wins away from a state championship.
That depth could prove to be the key with defending champion Lakeville North up next and whoever survives the other state semifinal – Wayzata or Lakeville South.
“A credit to those guys that played more tonight,” Keenan said. “They worked hard in the offseason too, and we have Shipman so those guys probably haven’t gotten as many carries. But those guys didn’t keep their heads down.
“Our senior leadership is probably close to the best that I’ve been around, so these guys set some goals and they want to achieve those. Sometimes it is just playing your role.”
Rosemount’s only score was a 24-yard run by junior running back Christian Graske in the second quarter. Graske had 72 yards on 15 carries and also lost a fumble, all in the first half.
Senior quarterback Trevor Armborst finished 5-for-17 for 26 yards and two interceptions, and senior wide receiver and University of Minnesota recruit Jonathan Mann was held without a catch and just nine yards on two carries.