Chatfield freight train rolls past Minneapolis North, en route to U.S. Bank Stadium
It had been eight years since Chatfield played a state tournament football game. The Gophers made up for lost time, demolishing Minneapolis North in a Class AA state quarterfinal Thursday night, 50-20.
The Chatfield High School football team is following a familiar path.
Back in 2013, the Gophers bounced back from a season-opening loss en route to their fourth state championship in school history.
This season, they again started 0-1.
“After that game, the first thing I told them coming into the locker room, I said, ‘Guys, the last time we won the state tournament, we lost our first game,’” said Chatfield coach Jeff Johnson, whose team suffered a 25-point home defeat to Plainview-Elgin-Millville in Week 1. “I told them, ‘You’re too talented. You’re too competitive. And you have a coaching staff that works too hard for this to go south.’ We knew we could only get better from that point on.
“And they did.”
The Gophers clearly took that message to heart, because they haven’t lost since that season-opening defeat. And on Thursday at Mayo High School, they punched their ticket to U.S. Bank Stadium and the Class AA state semifinals with an emphatic 50-20 victory against No. 2-ranked Minneapolis North.
Chatfield, now two wins away from repeating its 2013 fate, will take on Section 8AA champion Barnesville at 2 p.m. Thursday with a place in the Class AA Prep Bowl on the line.
“They deserve it because they’ve earned it,” Johnson said. “You don’t just show up with talent, because we’ve had talented teams before. You just don’t show up with talent alone and win like this. You have to earn it all year long, and these kids took that upon themselves and took it seriously. All 30 of them were in the weight room at 6 o'clock, every morning.
“They worked their tails off, they bought into it. And they believed.”
Chatfield quarterback Sam Backer was once again the difference maker for the Gophers. And what a difference he made.
The junior had a hand in every one of the Gophers’ seven touchdowns, running in for six en route to a 237-yard rushing performance. Backer also added a passing TD — a 17-yard strike to junior Cole Johnson — which made it 30-7 Chatfield at the midway point of the second quarter. Backer later added a 55-yard touchdown run in the dying embers of the first half to give the Gophers a 38-7 lead at the break.
“I think the only thing we could have done differently is probably put my big self out there and tackle him myself,” said Minneapolis North coach Charles Adams, a towering figure. “He’s a good player, man. You have to have the heart to hustle. There’s no scheme, no schematic. There’s nothing I can tell the kids. I can tell them where he’s going to be at, but we have to hit, wrap and push him back. And if you don’t do that, that’s the result. You lose, and he runs up and down the field on you.”
The Gophers’ defense, meanwhile, limited an otherwise explosive Minneapolis North offense — which entered Thursday’s game averaging 39.7 points per game — to minus-3 yards in the first half, as the Polars didn’t advance beyond midfield until after halftime.
“If we keep the other team under 30, we’re going to have a great shot to win,” Johnson said. “That’s how explosive our offense is. We can score points fast.”
Chatfield opened the scoring, though, with a methodic drive on its opening possession, chewing up nearly half of the first quarter with an 11-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in Backer’s first TD of the night, a 1-yarder on fourth-and-goal.
Less than four minutes later, Minneapolis North answered via its special-teams unit, as the Polars blocked a Chatfield punt attempt and returned the resulting scramble for a 5-yard touchdown late in the first quarter. Following the PAT, that made it 8-7 Chatfield.
That’s when the Gophers took off, reeling off 43 unanswered points.
“I think we can play with anyone,” said Backer, who now has a whopping 2,296 rushing yards and 38 touchdowns on the year. “We come out and play angry, we play physical every game, and we know our offense is going to score points.”
NOTES: Chatfield junior running back Jackson Schild added 47 yards on 14 carries for the Gophers, who as a team amassed 306 yards of total offense. … After starting 0-1, the Gophers have now won 11 consecutive games, and have scored at least 40 points in seven of their last eight.
NO. 7 CHATFIELD 50, NO. 2 MINNEAPOLIS NORTH 20
MN 7-0-7-6 — 20
Chat 8-30-12-0 — 50
C — Sam Backer 1 run (Drew O’Connor pass from Backer), 6:12.
MN — Jaivon Hill 5 fumble return (Sebastian Amorrortu kick), 2:32.
C — Backer 3 run (pass failed), 10:47.
C — Backer 54 run (O’Connor pass from Backer), 8:11.
C — Cole Johnson 17 pass from Backer (O’Connor pass from Backer), 5:30.
C — Backer 55 run (Johnson pass from Backer), 3:30.
C — Backer 21 run (run failed), 10:15.
C — Backer 8 run (run failed), 7:04.
MN — De’Meiko Anderson 10 pass from Rio Sanders (Amorrortu kick), 1:42.
MN — Anderson 39 pass from Sanders (Amorrortu kick), 5:57.
C — MN
First downs 12 — 10
Total net yards 320 — 182
Rushes-yards 41-287 — 31-96
Comp.-att.-int. 4-6-0 — 7-19-2
Fumbles-lost 0-0 — 1-0
Penalties-yds. 2-30 — 8-46
Punts-avg. 2-28 — 5-38
RUSHING: C — Backer 21-237, Jackson Schild 14-47, Patrick Delaney 4-7, Team 2-minus 4; MN — Will Smith 4-41, Jaylon Washington 10-39, Sanders 8-38, Zashon Rich 1-minus 2, Deshaun Hill 6-minus 6, Team 2-minus 14.
PASSING: C — Backer 3-5-0-29, Patrick Delaney 1-1-0-4; MN — Sanders 2-7-1-52, Hill 5-11-1-34.
RECEIVING: C — Johnson 1-17, Luke Carrier 1-7, Grady Schott 1-5, O’Connor 1-4; MN — Anderson 4-59, Sanders 2-19, Rich 1-8.