As the season winds down, the stakes heat up. Friday night, the defending 6A champion Lakeville North Panthers were pushed to the brink by the upstart Shakopee Sabers. The Sabers looked like they were going to pull off the upset…
As the season winds down, the stakes heat up. Friday night, the defending 6A champion Lakeville North Panthers were pushed to the brink by the upstart Shakopee Sabers. The Sabers looked like they were going to pull off the upset until Panthers’ quarterback/defensive back Raja Nelson made a pair of plays to put the game away. Aside from Nelson, who else stood out during North’s 9-7 state quarterfinal victory?
Raja Nelson – Lakeville North quarterback/cornerback
Not surprisingly, Nelson was the straw that stirred the Panther’s offense. Although he missed on some throws that would have kept the offense on the field, he ran the read-option effectively and used his athletic ability to keep the offense moving. Late in the game, Nelson made two plays that ultimately decided the game. Trailing 7-3 with five minutes to play in the game, the Panthers were facing a fourth and seven from the eleven-yard line. Nelson took the shotgun snap and not only picked up the first down, but he also got the ball over the goal line for a 9-7 lead. However, the Sabers were not done. They moved the ball across midfield with time enough to maybe get into field goal range. Nelson, who up until this year played corner primarily, was in at his original position in crunch time. The move paid off as Nelson stepped in front of a slant, picked off the pass and was down the sidelines. Although he didn’t score, he put the game away.
Nick Mines – Lakeville North linebacker/defensive lineman
The game looked to be in control of the Sabers in the fourth quarter. They held a slim 7-3 lead and had just stopped the Panthers on downs. Shakopee tried to cross up the Panthers’ defense by throwing on first down – which they had rarely done in the first three and a half quarters. Mines wasn’t fooled and stepped in front of the pass – setting up the winning touchdown drive. Mines also was responsible for the team’s longest pass play – a twenty-yard catch.
Logan Freeburg – Lakeville North running back
When Nelson wasn’t carrying the rock, Freeburg was. While he didn’t have the volume of carries as his quarterback did, he averaged 4.5 yards per carry and was most effective in the second half during the Panthers’ two scoring drives. With Nelson pulling the ball and usually running off tackle or on the edge, Freeburg did most of his work getting the tough yards between the tackles.
Landon Carter – Lakeville North defensive end
When a defense only allows one touchdown drive, the front seven usually plays great. Especially in the second half, the Panthers’ defensive did just that. The most dynamic of the defenders was defensive lineman Carter. He was a huge factor slowing down the option running game – that tried to go wide often. In the first half, Carter tracked down the Shakopee quarterback for a sack. The sack forced a Sabers’ punt.
David Bigaouette – Shakopee quarterback
Bigaouette was the most dynamic player on the Sabers’ offense. He has decisions to make on most of the offensive plays with their double-wing option attack. He scored the Sabers only touchdown with an 11-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter. As a ball carrier, he showed good speed when he got openings, had good cutback ability, and was even able to break tackles to pick up extra yards.