Cannon Falls seniors hope to finally break into 'the Bank'
The Cannon Falls football team has won 33 games over the past four seasons, but its seniors have never had a chance to play at U.S. Bank Stadium. They'll get that chance if the Bombers can get past Section 2AAA champion Watertown-Mayer in a state quarterfinal game Thursday at Hastings High School.
CANNON FALLS — Cannon Falls’ senior class has tasted a lot of success on the football field.
One thing it hasn’t tasted: A game at U.S. Bank Stadium.
The Bombers are one victory away from achieving a goal that has been so close for their program a couple of times in the past five years, but one that has still felt so far away.
Cannon Falls won section championships in 2018 and 2019, but fell in one-score games in the state quarterfinals — losing 27-21 to Fairmont in 2018, then 26-22 against Dassel-Cokato in a game that ended with the Bombers misfiring on four consecutive passes from the D-C 26-yard line in the final minute.
The COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the state tournament in 2020, then Plainview-Elgin-Millville knocked off the Bombers 21-18 in the section championship game a year ago.
Which brings us to this season and a group of Cannon Falls seniors who were hellbent on not only making it back to the state tournament, but getting to feel what it’s like to step onto an NFL field as a group.
“We’ve just been focused on getting better and better and better every day at practice, since Day 1,” Bombers’ coach Dan Meyers said after his team took down P-E-M 50-6 last Friday in the Section 1AAA title game. “Early in the season, there are mistakes guys make, but we’ve done a great job of learning and cleaning up those mistakes. It’s a credit to our guys for putting in the work every single day at practice.”
That work ethic and attention to detail has helped the Bombers’ potent, run-heavy offense befuddle opponents again this season. It’s a trend they hope to continue against Section 2AAA champion Watertown-Mayer at 7 p.m. Thursday at Hastings High School in state quarterfinal game.
The winner advances to the state semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, the home of the Minnesota Vikings, for a 4:30 p.m. game on Saturday, Nov. 19.
Getting to this point has been a four-year build-up for this Cannon Falls senior class (see charts at bottom of article), one that has accumulated a 33-5 record since 2019.
“Every time we play a game, we get into the film room and we find what we can do better,” Meyers said. “If we win by 60 points, we’re still in there looking for stuff we can get better at.
“...All gas, no brakes is the motto this year and that’s … that’s just what we do.”
A deeper dive into the numbers reveals just how impressive this Cannon Falls team has been, and just how well it executes its misdirection offense.
Directed by senior quarterback Colton Otto, the Bombers average 49.5 points per game, second only in Class AAA to Section 7AAA champ Esko, which averages 50.1 ppg. Cannon Falls has scored 38 or more points in 10 of its 11 games this season, the only exception being its 24-22 loss to Lourdes in Week 5.
Since that loss, the Bombers (10-1) have averaged 58.0 points per game, including 56.7 per game in the playoffs. They have scored 50 or more points seven times this season, reached the 60s twice and had an 80-point game in the next-to-last week of the regular season.
Following the section championship game victory against P-E-M, Meyers gave a lot of the credit to the Bombers’ offensive line and to Otto, the senior QB who has mastered a complex offense.
“The backfield and the quarterback, there’s tons of precision back there (in our offense), with all the fakes we use,” Meyers said. “I don’t think, to a casual fan, they can’t tell the difference between any of our plays, but there are actually lots and lots of variations to our plays that we run, so the quarterback has to know all that stuff, and be able to run all the plays we can do.
“Most people can’t tell, but there’s lots going on there … just the mechanics and the precision we need out of our quarterback.”
While the Bombers’ high-powered offense intends to keep its foot on the gas, Watertown-Mayer (10-1) is no slouch. It avenged its only loss of the season by beating defending state champion Dassel-Cokato 47-36 in the Section 2AAA final. The Royals averaged 46.7 points in their three playoff victories and 36.8 points per game for the season.
A steady climb
Cannon Falls' offense has increased its production every year that its senior class has been part of the program. Here's a look at the Bombers' impressive offensive numbers over the past four seasons:
Cannon Falls' record when scoring...
The Bombers have scored 30 or more points in 28 of their 38 games over the past four seasons. Here's a look at how many times they've hit big points totals, and their record in those games:
NOTE: The Bombers' lone loss in the past four seasons when scoring 30 or more points came in Week 5 of the 2021 season, a 44-34 loss against Chatfield.