Lanesboro aims for first state title

After knocking off highly ranked foes in two straight state tournament games, Lanesboro is a confident team heading into Friday's Nine-Man state championship game in football.

The Burros have defeated two unbeaten teams, No. 3 Edgerton/Ellsworth and second-ranked Goodridge/Grygla-Gatke, in the state quarterfinal and semifinal round to earn a berth in the title game for the first time.

"It's exciting, that's for sure," Lanesboro coach James Semmen said. "They look like they're ready to play."

"We have a lot of confidence," Lanesboro quarterback Lucas Johnson said. "We get that from the coaches."

And confidence is easy to build when a team is on a roll and able to beat all challengers, no matter how highly ranked they might be.


"I think the team is (confident) and I think they feel pretty prepared when they go in," Semmen said.

"We think we're going to win the state championship," Lanesboro junior Branden Hanson said.

The Burros face Cromwell in the state finals at 10 a.m. Friday at the Metrodome. They seem to be a pair of unlikely championship foes. Lanesboro lost its first two games before winning 11 straight. Cromwell (8-4) was 2-4 with a three-game losing streak at one point, but has now won six straight.

Cromwell has had plenty of success in the past, reaching seven previous state title games. They won in three of those appearances.

"I think it's a couple of teams that had some rough starts to the year," Semmen said. "Now things are starting to click and they're going to do what works well for them."

That would be the ground game in each case. Both Lanesboro and Cromwell would be content to run the ball if they were to have success on the ground.

Cromwell quarterback Jordan Suhonen has rushed for more than 1,000 yards this season to lead the team. He  throws only about seven passes a game. He has rushed for 18 touchdowns. Dylan Mattson has rushed for more than 700 yards.

"Their quarterback is extremely fast and powerful," Semmen said.


"I think we'll try to play defense with our offense," the coach added. And by that Semmen meant the Burros will also try to control the ball on the ground to keep the ball away from Cromwell's offense.

Johnson dislocated his pinkie finger on his non-throwing hand in the semifinals. But the quarterback missed just two plays, and when he returned he caught his second touchdown pass of the game.

The Burros might like to run the ball, but a couple of big passes turned the tide last week. Hanson, who started the first two games of the season at quarterback, was 3-for-3 passing for 120 yards and two TDs in the semifinals.

Jake Reed and freshman Niko Anderson are the two key running backs for the Lanesboro offense.

"We're going to try and run between the tackles and try to run our option game," Semmen said.

"I think the big thing is we have to control the ball and not turn it over," he added. "And we have to keep their quarterback in the pocket."

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