Chatfield clicking on all cylinders, fires past Blue Earth Area and into state semifinals

Sam Backer passed for three touchdowns and ran for another as Chatfield rolled past Blue Earth Area 35-6 in a Class AA high school football state quarterfinal game on Thursday night at Mayo High School.

Chatfield, Blue Earth Class AA Quarterfinal football
Chatfield’s Cole Johnson (2) makes a catch for a touchdown during the Class AA Quarterfinal football game against Blue Earth on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022, at Mayo High School in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
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We're running out of ways to describe the gridiron dominance of Chatfield senior Sam Backer.

It was on display yet again Thursday at Mayo High School.

Backer piled up 208 rushing yards, passing Owatonna’s Jason Williamson in the process for second all-time in Minnesota high school history. He completed four passes for 101 yards and three touchdowns. He even tallied an interception from his safety position on defense.

He’s special. And he led the top-ranked Gophers to a 35-6 victory against Blue Earth Area in the Class AA state quarterfinals.

“He’s one of the best football players in Minnesota, period,” said Chatfield coach Jeff Johnson, whose team will take on perennial Section 5 power and fifth-ranked Eden Valley-Watkins in the state semifinals at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Nov. 18, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. “I think he’s got a real shot to be named the best player in Minnesota, too. But he’s gotta do it two more times. And we’ve gotta do it two more times.
“We’re on a revenge tour. Sam has unfinished business. I think he’s going to show that over the next two weeks.”


He certainly showed it against the Buccaneers.

The last of Backer’s 18 carries went for a 50-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter to put the game on ice. That carry also lifted Backer past Williamson for second on Minnesota’s all-time rushing list. Backer, unofficially, now has 7,038 career rushing yards, just 465 behind McLeod West’s Tyler Evans with two games, potentially, still to play.

It’s within reach.

“It’s right there. I mean, it’s right there,” Johnson said. “I’m sure he’s going to have two tough defenses to face. He’s got a chance to get to 200 every game, that’s for sure. He can hit those 50-yarders, 80-yarders. I mean, there were a couple that he almost broke tonight just about a belt buckle away.”

“I’ve definitely been thinking about it since someone brought it up to me a little while ago, but I don’t think about it during the game at all,” said Backer, one of the best runners this state has ever seen. “After the game when people tell me the numbers, it’s kind of crazy.”

The 50-yard touchdown was the only carry that Backer broke for big yardage Thursday. While half of his carries went for double-digit yardage, his second longest rushing gain of the night topped out at 14 yards.

He found bigger gains through the air.

Backer attempted five passes all night. Four of them were completed. Three went for touchdowns.


Chatfield, Blue Earth Class AA Quarterfinal football
Chatfield’s Ethan Cole (60) takes down Blue Earth’s Noah Johnson (7) during the Class AA Quarterfinal football game on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022, at Mayo High School in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

Two of the TDs found senior tight end Drew O’Connor down the middle of the field. The first opened the scoring on the sixth play of the game, a 28-yard pop pass between the hashes. The second, a 40-yarder, made it a three-score game midway through the third quarter.

But the passing highlight of the game belonged entirely to Chatfield senior Cole Johnson, whose 23-yard touchdown late in the first half wowed the crowd. Rising above single coverage, Johnson reeled in a spectacular one-handed grab, reaching behind his own momentum at full stretch in the process.

Even he couldn’t believe it.

“By far the best catch I’ve ever made,” Cole Johnson said. “Once I caught that ball, at first I didn’t know if I was in the end zone, so once I saw that I was in the end zone, I still couldn’t tell if it was real or not. I had to double check and look into the crowd to see what was going on.”

The Gophers personified balance on offense. And their defense was at its typical best yet again, limiting their seventh opponent of the season to eight points or fewer.

“Cliché, but defense wins championships,” Jeff Johnson said. “That’s our motto, and that’s what we focus on. And then 21 (Backer) goes out and determines by how much we win.
“And when he can throw the ball like he did tonight; he hasn’t done that that much all season. But when he’s on, he’s on, and we’re dangerous. Because when you load the box, we can hit O’Connor down the seam, we can get Cole (Johnson) down there, we can get (Luke) Carrier down there. If teams want to load it up, it’s going to be a 50-50 chance we score a touchdown if we throw it.
“If I see a linebacker on one of our kids, we’re goin’ downtown.”

Chatfield, Blue Earth Class AA Quarterfinal football
Chatfield’s Drew O’Connor (24) reacts after scoring a touchdown during the Class AA Quarterfinal football game against Blue Earth on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022, at Mayo High School in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

Blue Earth Area enjoyed its own passing prowess, at times. In fact, senior quarterback Ashton Lloyd was the unquestioned centerpiece of the Buccaneers’ offensive game plan. He attempted a whopping 38 pass attempts, 24 of which he completed across six different receivers, for a 247 yards.

The Buccaneers’ offense did move the ball. They were efficient on third down, too, converting nine of 16 attempts, four of which were converted with eight or more yards still needed for the first down.


They just ran out of answers on Chatfield’s side of the 50-yard line, as the Gophers forced three BEA turnovers on downs inside the red zone, including two goal-line stands inside the 5.

“I think it came down to their speed. They were faster than we were,” BEA coach Randy Kuechenmeister said. “And so, you know, they get to things quicker. They’re a good football team. We had a couple opportunities, but hey, give them credit. They took those opportunities away.”

And because of that, the Gophers’ state title defense is still very much on play, as are Backer’s chances to claim the state’s all-time rushing crown.

It’s all on the table. Next stop, Minneapolis.

“I only care about wins and losses. That’s what everyone’s going to remember at the end of the day anyway,” Backer said. “We know what our goal is, and we have to take it each game at a time, but we’re not satisfied with anything less than winning state.”


B 0-0-0-6 — 6

C 8-6-15-6 — 35

First quarter

C — Drew O’Connor 28 pass from Sam Backer (Carter Daniels pass from Jacob Erickson), 9:41.

Second quarter

C — Cole Johnson 23 pass from Backer (run failed), 4:35.

Third quarter

C — O’Connor 40 pass from Backer (Backer run), 7:53.

C — Backer 2 run (Erickson kick), 3:54.

Fourth quarter

C — Backer 50 run (kick failed), 8:36.

B — Ashton Lloyd 12 run (pass failed), 5:25.


RUSHING: B — Lloyd 20-36, Parker Meyers 6-13, Caleb Langager 1-2, Noah Johnson 1-minus 4, Team 1-minus 7; C — Backer 18-208, Kailan Schott 7-96, Chase Johnson 4-68, Jackson Schild 2-12, Carson Rowland 1-minus 7.

PASSING: B — Lloyd 24-38-0-247, Meyers 0-1-0-0; C — Backer 4-5-1-101, Team 0-1-0-0.

RECEIVING: B — Jack Norman 9-135, Noah Johnson 2-36, Meyers 6-28, Colton Hubly 1-23, Abram Kokos 4-19, Soren Fering 1-6, Carson Sturtz 1-0; C — O’Connor 2-68, Johnson 2-32.

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