Down three to the No. 1 team in the state, 90 yards of grass in front of them, just over a minute to play and no timeouts.
That's what faced the Northfield Raiders on their home field against the Owatonna Huskies. When Raiders quarterback Lars Prestemon completed a pass to Alex Rasmussen and the senior dove across the goal line, the Raiders had a 21-17 lead with just 18 seconds to play.
“As the quarterback, my teammates look at me to make the play call,” Prestemon said. “We have great receivers that are fast. We knew we could compete and knew we could do it.”
The Raiders patiently worked their way out from the shadow of their own goal line by using the sidelines and short passes to move the chains. Then, with just over 30 seconds to play, the Raiders took a shot deep.
Prestemon found Carter Hodapp down the middle of the field for a 50-yard gain down to the 10-yard line. After a spike to kill the clock, the Raiders had 22 seconds to score.
Prestemon would throw one more pass — to Rasmussen for the winning touchdown.
“What a great high school game,” Northfield coach Bubba Sullivan said. “If you were a neutral fan it was awesome. Both teams played fantastic.”
The first quarter was over in a blink of an eye. Both teams moved the ball in the quarter, but offensive penalties in or near the red zone stopped each team's long opening drives. Owatonna would get on the board early in the second quarter via a field goal.
In a precursor to the dramatic end of the game, Owatonna put together a late drive at the end of the first half. A touchdown pass from quarterback Abe Havelka to running back Jason Williamson widened the lead to 10-0 at the half.
“We were excited that we were able to drive down the field on them, but we didn't finish,” Prestemon said about their slow start. “We all just hung in there and kept moving the ball. We finally put it in the end zone.”
Northfield's offense would find its rhythm right out of the locker room. A deep crossing pattern got the Raiders out to midfield, and then Jim Vitito took a handoff right up the middle for a 50-yard touchdown run. Using a nice mix of run and pass, Northfield put together another long drive. Vitito's 12-yard run set up a one-yard touchdown for Prestemon.
Northfield had its first lead, but it wouldn't last. Havelka's second touchdown pass would on a wheel route to wide receiver Noah Budach. The 50-yard touchdown catch and run put Budach over 100 yards receiving and put the Huskies ahead 17-14 with 4:44 to play in the game.
Both defenses would make stops, setting up the game-winning drive by the Raiders.
“Our defense has been our heart and soul all year,” Sullivan said. “They have carried us throughout the year. Today was no different. Our kids played with a lot of heart.”
“Our defense has been our backbone all year,” Prestemon added. “They held the No. 1 rated team who was averaging 50 points a game to 17 points. That is amazing.”
Northfield to 7-0 on the season with the victory, while Owatonna dropped to 6-1.