Christian Vasser of the Wayzata High football team loves to carry the football, and he racked up several personal records Nov. 15 at U.S. Bank Stadium when the Trojans beat Lakeville South 28-14 in the state Class 6A semifinals.
The win gives Wayzata a shot at its first state title since 2010. The Trojans will play Champlin Park in a battle of unbeaten teams Friday, Nov. 29, back at U.S. Bank Stadium.
Ball control was the key to Wayzata’s win over Lakeville South. Both teams have vaunted running games and stingy defenses, so it came down to controlling the clock.
Vasser was the key for Wayzata in that regard. He rushed a record 44 times for a season high of 269 yards. His one pass reception, good for two yards, put him over the 270 mark in total offense.
“Our offensive line played a phenomenal game,” Wayzata head coach Lambert Brown noted. “Christian was able to find the holes.”
Vasser had touchdown runs of 2, 4 and 6 yards, and Wayzata also scored on a 3-yard run by quarterback Thomas Schmidt. The Trojans had 402 yards in total offense.
Wayzata’s defense was almost as good as its offense. Lakeville South’s scoring was limited to a 43-yard run by Willie Bastyr on the opening drive of the game and a 35-yard pass from Reid Patterson to George Brekke in the third quarter.
“We needed to stop the run,” Wayzata’s defensive line leader Joe Demro said. Although Lakeville South rushed for 197 yards, sustaining drives was a difficult task.
“We owe it to our coaches for a great game plan,” Demro said. “We held our gaps.”
The key play of the game came late in the second quarter, when Lakeville South was driving for what would have tied the score 14-14. One of the Cougar halfbacks fumbled at the 1 yard line and Wayzata recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchback.
Eighty yards later, with less than a minute to play in the first half, Vasser scored, and Peter Melquist nailed the extra point for a 21-7 halftime lead.
“That 14-point swing obviously hurt,” Lakeville South head coach Ben Burk said. “A big mistake in a big moment prevented us from tying the score.”
Burk praised Wayzata for its tenacious play.
“They’re a lot like us,” he said. “They preach togetherness. They play a little bit different than we do, but the goals are the same - run the ball and control the clock.”
In addition to the big touchdown to end the first half, Wayzata came out fired up in the third quarter and boosted its lead to 28-7.
“Scoring right away after the half was huge,” Brown said. “Championship teams find a way to do that.”
Offensive line play has carried the Trojans through the season, along with Vasser’s rushing, Schmidt’s passing and a fast, aggressive defensive unit.
Brown mentioned those offensive linemen, who all had key roles in the victory Friday night - left tackle Jac Carver, left guard Joe Salonek, center Jonas Waskosky, right guard Graham Viggers, right tackle Steven Magnuson and the two tight ends, Luke Bodine and Zach Thomsen. Wide receiver Jacob Wildermuth made some blocks down field and had five receptions for 86 yards.
“Our offensive line wanted to do something special in this big environment,” Brown said. “All of our players are greatly invested in themselves and in each other.
Wayzata’s defensive stats reflected the same balance the Trojans have had all season. Drew Berkland led the way with nine tackles, Anthony Ukofia and Casey Winterer had eight each and linebacker Matthew Schmidt had seven. Demro had six stops, including three unassisted tackles and a sack.
Vasser didn’t realize he had more than 40 carries in Friday’s win. The adrenaline was pumping and his line was blocking.
“We focus on our motto,” he said. “1-and-0 this week.”