Byron 22, Stewartville 21, OT
STEWARTVILLE — Ben Halder turned to his players immediately after they scored a touchdown in overtime and let them make the decision: Do you want to kick the point-after-touchdown to tie the score and force a second overtime, or do you want to go for a 2-point conversion and the victory?
Trailing by a point to rival Stewartville in a Section One, Class AAAA semifinal football game, the Byron Bears' veteran leaders didn't hesitate in their answer.
"The kids said they wanted to go for two," Halder said. "I said 'OK, it's your program. Let's go for two.'"
The Bears had just run a quarterback sweep to their right. One of their assistant coaches upstairs in the coaches box noticed Stewartville's back-side linebacker selling out to pursue the ball-carrier. So Halder and his assistant coaches had a really quick talk with quarterback Kale Robinson.
"We told him to take one step to his right then quickly come back to his left," Halder said.
That's what Robinson did on the two-point conversion attempt. The Bears' quarterback didn't fool every Stewartville defender, but he fooled the right ones. Robinson sprinted all the way back to his left and stretched for the pylon in the front corner of the end zone at the last second.
The official on the spot immediately put his arms in the air, signaling a successful try and a 22-21 Byron victory — one that included a comeback that even a Hollywood screenwriter might find far-fetched.
Halder can't really remember what happened next, aside from his the players on the sideline near him sprinting to the end zone to celebrate, then sprinting over to the Bears' student section to continue the celebration.
Byron, which started its season 0-5 — a stretch that included narrow one-score losses to Winona and Stewartville — will now play for the Section 1AAAA championship at 7 p.m. Friday at Mayo High School. The Bears will face another rival in that one — and another rival against whom they played a strong game in the regular season. Byron will meet Kasson-Mantorville in the section final; K-M beat the Bears 31-21 in the season opener for both teams.
But the Bears (4-6 overall) chose to spend some time Saturday re-thinking their stunning come-from-behind victory.
As if the game-winning play wasn't unbelievable enough, consider the following:
• Byron trailed 14-0 with less than 3 minutes to play in regulation.
• Robinson threw a touchdown pass to Matt Frigaard with approximately two-and-a-half minutes to go to get the Bears on the board.
• Byron then recovered an onside kick to regain possession of the ball with just more than two minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
• The Bears drove to Stewartville's 1, where they faced a fourth-and-goal. They converted again, Robinson throwing another TD pass to James Durst.
• Byron then needed a two-point conversion, which Robinson completed to Kylan Brakke to tie the score 14-14 and force OT.
• Stewartville scored on the first play of overtime and converted the PAT to go up 21-14.
That set the stage for an incredible finish, capped by Robinson's 2-point conversion, giving the Bears their only lead in the game at the most important time.
Robinson finished with 181 yards passing and two touchdowns, while Jake Thompson ran for 63 yards on 19 carries for the Bears. Durst finished with six catches for 79 yards and a score, while Frigaard had two catches for 27 yards and Brakke had two catches for 21 yards.
BYRON 22, STEWARTVILLE 21, OT
Byron 0-0-0-14-8 — 22
Stewartville 7-0-0-7-7 — 21
K-M 45, Winona 14
KASSON — Donovans were all over the field and all over the box score here Saturday afternoon.
Matt Donovan and AJ Donovan had a hand in 32 of Kasson-Mantorville's 45 points as the No. 2-seeded KoMets rolled to a 45-14 victory against third-seeded Winona in a Section 1AAAA semifinal game Saturday.
The KoMets (6-3 overall) will now face rival Byron at 7 p.m. Friday at Mayo High School in the Section 1AAAA championship game.
K-M quarterback Matt Donovan and the KoMets' offense continue to rack up yards and points. Donovan led the KoMets' option offense to 501 total yards, including 465 rushing yards.
And what Donovan didn't do, Anthony Moe-Tucker did. The powerful senior ran 18 times for 197 yards (10.9 yards per carry) and a touchdown for K-M. Donovan added 20 carries for 176 yards and three rushing TDs. Donovan also passed for 36 yards and one TD.
The KoMets used 10 different ball carriers — Michael Hoff also scored a rushing TD, while Aidan Smith had one catch for an 11-yard TD — in the victory.
Winona managed just 201 yards of offense.
The score was tied 7-7 after one quarter, but K-M outscored the Winhawks 17-0 in the second to take a 24-7 halftime lead.
In addition to Matt Donovan's big day, AJ Donovan kicked six extra points and a 30-yard field goal.
The KoMets will now seek their second straight section championship — and their second straight win against rival Byron in the section title game. K-M defeated the Bears 7-0 in last year's Section 1AAAA final.
K-M 45, Winona 14
Winona 7-0-0-7 — 14
K-M 7-17-14-7 — 45