Cover photo from David Joles/Star Tribune
I knew the Lakeville North defense was great and likely the best in the state, but I didn’t expect this. I expected the Panthers to beat Prior Lake Friday night at TCO Stadium, but not like this. In a matchup of two of the top teams in 6A the Lakeville North Panthers left no doubt they were the number one team in the state with a 38-3 thrashing of the Lakers.
The game got off to a sloppy start with three turnovers in less than three minutes of game time. The first turnover resulted in a field goal for the Lakers and a 3-0 lead. The Lakers would not score again in the game.
Without a doubt, the player of the night – especially in the first half was do everything athlete Raja Nelson. From his cornerback position – a position he was playing for the first time all year – he picked off a pass. On the ensuing drive, he drew a pass interference penalty on a deep route down the hash marks. That play would set the Panthers up for their first score of the game.
The defense would get on the board next when senior defensive end Eli Mostaert picked off a pass and rumbled into the end zone to give the Panthers a two-score lead.
“We are a great defensive line,” Mostaert said. “We have great chemistry. We all get off blocks, pursue and try to make plays. I feel we have great players at every spot and have a great defensive line right now.”
The front seven of the Panthers made Prior Lake quarterback Colin O’Connor uncomfortable all night. He missed on nine straight passes at one point. The Panthers would force a punt, and a high snap by the Lakers’ special teams would put the Panthers on the plus side of the field.
After a play action pass got the Panthers inside the five-yard line, Nelson would score the first of his three touchdowns in the game.
The Panthers would add a field goal late in the second quarter to take a commanding lead into the locker room at halftime.
Nelson wasn’t done. He caught two touchdown passes – one from quarterback Brennan Kuebler, and one on a halfback option pass. The option pass would cap off a 14-point third quarter that put the game away.
“When we get rolling and are chipping away – three or four yards at a time – that is when our line starts rolling,” Nelson said, “and give the backs confidence.”
With a big lead, Lakeville North was able to rely on a punishing running game. Behind an offensive line that was rolling, and that got stronger as the game went on, running back Brian Curtis Jr. carried the ball 31 times for 186 yards and a touchdown.
“We are playing great football right now,” Panthers’ head coach Brian Vossen said. “We are healthy and are in a good position to continue this.”
Lakeville North moved to 7-0 and will take on Eagan. Prior Lake dropped to a record of 4-3 and will finish the regular season with Eastview.