MINNEAPOLIS -- The Plainview-Elgin-Millville football program has returned to its glory days. This, after enduring five straight losing seasons, then getting a taste of winning football one year ago.
It must have tasted good, because the Bulldogs are really feasting now, having made it all the way to the Class AAA championship game.
P-E-M earned the right Saturday, posting a determined, rugged and offensively stylistic 28-6 win over Annandale in the Class AAA semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium.
It moved the Bulldogs to 11-2 overall. They will take on No. 1-ranked Dassel-Cokato at 1 p.m. Nov. 27 for the state title. It marks their first appearance in the state title game since 2002, when they won it.
"It was an awesome game," P-E-M coach Kevin Lamb said. "Annandale played hard the whole time. But I am so proud of our guys with the way they hustled. Our guys played with a lot of heart and they flew around all game making awesome plays."
P-E-M's defense has been on a complete roll all season. That's been especially true in the playoffs, with the Bulldogs allowing an average of just nine points in five games. That includes holding offensive juggernauts Lake City and Cannon Falls to just seven and 18 points, respectively, in the power-packed Section 1AAA tournament.
Against Annandale, a team averaging 35 points per game, it was more of the same. The Cardinals managed six against P-E-M, their only score coming with 25 seconds left in the first half.
The Bulldogs were outsized in the contest. But in terms of speed, there was no contest. P-E-M won all of the foot races.
"They are a really athletic team," said Annandale coach Matt Walter, whose team was ranked 10th, while P-E-M was ninth. "They just have so much speed on the outside."
It was a brilliant day for P-E-M overall. But two players particularly leaped out: Peyton Schumacher and Connor McGuire.
Schumacher, a speedy wide receiver/defensive back, finished with a career-high three interceptions, including one he returned for a touchdown. He also kicked off P-E-M's scoring with a 72-yard TD catch from McGuire early in the second quarter.
Schumacher destroyed any chance Annandale might have had to have a big passing day. And it needed one, as swarming and ultra-quick P-E-M allowed the Cardinals just 84 yards rushing on 29 carries.. He wasn't the only one wreaking havoc with the Annandale passing game. The Bulldogs picked off five Cardinals passes.
But nobody did it better or more often than Schumacher, who Lamb pointed out has shut down one elite receiver after another this season.
"I was just trying to bait their quarterback (Carson Gagnon) into throwing some of those balls, and then I jumped their receivers," Schumacher said. "I've done that quite a few times this season, and I've not been burned trying it yet."
It was Schumacher who so quickly turned a scoreless game into a 14-0 one in his team's favor. First there was that long TD catch from McGuire, then one minute later he picked off a Gagnon pass and took it 23 yards for a score.
As for McGuire, he's been a revelation all season with his passing. He used Saturday's semifinal to be one again. And the Bulldogs needed him to do that, as just like Annandale, they had an impossible time running the football.
But the senior made things work with his right arm, and also took advantage of his fleet receivers, led by Schumacher and Jason Feils.
"We have weapons," McGuire said. "I just just chuck it to them and they make me look good."
Certainly, McGuire and those receivers "looked good" together. McGuire finished 11-for-19 for 191 yards and two touchdowns. There was the 72-yarder to Schumacher in a first half that ended with P-E-M leading 14-6, and then there was a game-sealing 48-yarder to Feils with 3:24 left in the first half.
Plainview-Elgin-Millville 28, Annandale 6
Annandale 0-6-0-0 -- 6
P-E-M 0-14-7-7 -- 28
PEM -- Peyton Schumacher 72 pass from Connor McGuire (Glenn Schmidt kick), 11:57.
PEM -- Peyton Schumacher 23 interception (Schmidt kick), 10:55.
Ann -- Thomas Westman 6 pass from Carson Gagnon (kick failed), :25.
PEM -- McGuire 2 run (Schmidt kick), 4:22
PEM --Jason Feils 48 pass from McGuire (Schmidt kick), 3:24.
Ann — PEM
First downs 14— 11
Total net yards 284 — 256
Rushes-yards 29-84— 26-65
Passing yards 200 — 191
Pass att-comp.-int. 14-32-5— 11-21-2
Fumbles lost 1-0 — 0-0
Punts-ave 200— 191
Penalties yards 4-20 — 4-20
Annandale — Carson Gagnon 7-5, Max Schimelpfenig 10-30, Brice Fobbe 2-17, Carson Wiles 5-13, Nick Walter 1-12, Nathan Green 1-7, Connor Lampi 1-4. P-E-M — Hunter Tentis 10-18, Connor McGuire 11-20, Logan Dittrich 1-(minus 2), Jason Feils 3-31, Kyler Lamb 1-(minus 2).
Annandale — Carson Gagnon 9 completions, 21 attempts, 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions for 134 yards; Nick Walter 3-6-0-2 for 32 yards; Tristen Shoberg 1-4-0-1 for 23 yards; Brice Fobbe 1-1-0-0 for 11 yards. P-E-M — McGuire 11-19-2-2 for 191 yards; Lamb 0-2-0 0 for 0 yards.
Annandale -- Brice Fobbe 4-60, Gavin Polston 3-49, Robert Olson 4-32, Thomas Westman 2-10, Joe Healy 2-23, Tyson Shoberg 1-15, Nick Walter 1-11. P-E-M — Jason Feils 2-58, John Evers 4-31, Peyton Schumacher 4-89, Kaiden Peters 1-13.