Plainview-Elgin-Millville falls to Dassel-Cokato in state championship thriller

The Bulldogs were right there despite the Chargers having the ball for over 32 of the game's 48 minutes and nearly having a two-to-one advantage in plays.

Plainview-Elgin-Millville’s Peyton Schumacher (20) hugs Kyler Lamb (11) alongside Connor McGuire (18) as they walk off the field after losing during a Class AAA state championship game against Dassel-Cokato Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
Traci Westcott

MINNEAPOLIS — Time and time again, the Plainview-Elgin-Millville defense did its best to bend but not break.

But in the end, the powerful Dassel-Cokato rushing attack was just simply too much.

The Chargers converted five fourth-down plays and were 9-for-13 on third down thanks to an offense that could best be described as "four yards and a cloud of dust." It allowed them to hold onto the ball for an incredible 32 minutes, 44 seconds -- there are 48 minutes in a game -- on just six possessions. It wore down the stingy Bulldogs' defense and provided Dassel-Cakato the Class AAA state football championship in a 28-21 thriller on Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium.

P-E-M, which was playing in its first state-title game since winning its only championship in 2002, finishes the season 10-3. Dassel-Cokato (13-0) ended unbeaten while claiming the program's first state title.

"It was a hard-fought battle out there," P-E-M coach Kevin Lamb said. "We believed it would take four quarters, and I'm just really proud of the effort that our guys played with all game and all season long. They really believed in each other. Dassel-Cokato is a very good football team and they certainly deserve to have this championship. But our guys made them earn it on every single play."


The Chargers entered averaging more than 350 yards per game and nearly hit the mark, finishing with 307 yards on 69 carries. In fact, they had entered having not thrown a pass from the state quarterfinal until the third quarter of Saturday's game. That was a span of 146 consecutive plays without putting the ball in the air.

And after Saturday, one can see why.

PHOTOS: Photos: Plainview-Elgin-Millville, Dassel-Cokato football Class AAA state championship

Big offensive linemen paved the way for what appeared to be even larger running backs, including Mr. Football finalist Eli Gillman. The University of Montana commit scored three rushing touchdowns to finish with a state-best 42 on the season. He also caught both of the Chargers' passes for 43 yards, including a 35-yard catch on third-and-9 that helped set up a Keyton Johnson rushing touchdown that made it 28-14 almost midway through the fourth quarter.

For the game, Gillman finished with 150 yards on 32 carries, while Johnson added 90 on 20 for an offense that managed 4.95 yards per play and 350 total yards.

"Their O-line was just very disciplined," defensive and offensive lineman Cody Schneider said. "They ran their feet very well. Our D-line is a lot smaller but we still grinded and I feel like we did a very good job of keeping our chins up through that, (but) their running backs fall forward. They know how to get that extra yard."

The PEM defense made the Chargers earn things every step of the way.

Peyton Schumacher broke a 1987 Prep Bowl record for tackles in a game with 22 combined stops.. It lasted for about a half a quarter until teammate Martin Prieto set the new mark by finishing with 24 total tackles.


But in the end, the Bulldogs just could not get off the field enough on defense.

The Chargers were 5-for-5 on fourth-and-1 conversions, including three that were a part of a 20-play, 74-yard drive that took 9:30 off the clock and was punctuated by Gillman's second rushing TD. That put them up 14-7 with under a minute left in the first half. That drive finished just six seconds shy of the longest scoring drive in Prep Bowl history, which was set in 1984.

"It was really tough," Lamb said. "Just definitely a challenge all day. I thought our guys had great discipline ... but just really hard to get the defense off the field when they keep grinding like that."

It led to the Chargers' controlling the ball for over 66% of gameplay and holding a 71-46 advantage in offensive plays.

"The guys that play both ways get tired," Gillman said. "You can feel it. The offensive line gets a better push and (the defense) starts slipping off and not hitting as hard. You can really just start to tell when teams start wearing down against us."

The Bulldogs stayed in it due to a great offensive effort.

Quarterback Connor McGuire was solid throughout, responding well from an interception on the opening drive to finish with three total touchdowns. Working primarily the middle of the field along with some well-timed bubble screens, McGuire completed 20 of 32 passes for 264 yards with two passing touchdowns and a rushing score that tied the game at seven in the first quarter.

Overall, the PEM offense played well, finishing with 312 total yards and over 8 yards per play.


"We had to score on every drive," said D-C coach Weinandt, who played against P-E-M in his days as a prep player at Wabasha-Kellogg High School. "We had the kneel before half and the kneel to end the game, otherwise we had to score to win."

It did appear after Gillman put the Chargers up 14-7 late in the first half that the Bulldogs were going to be in trouble, especially with D-C scheduled to get the ball to open up the second half.

But then the Bulldogs reached into their bag of tricks.

McGuire found Kaiden Peters, who tossed it to Jason Feils for what was a 46-yard touchdown on a hook-and-ladder play to tie the game at 14. That came with 0:08 seconds to go in the half. It was one of many trick plays for P-E-M as it also ran the statue of liberty play and a double reverse.

"We probably had a few tricks left in the bag," Lamb said with a smile. "We definitely needed to keep them off balance. We didn't want to get too predictable with our slant game and our bubble game.

"To have that momentum before the half was huge."

But D-C killed that momentum with its opening drive as Gilman scored his third rushing TD to cap off a 19-play, 80-yard drive that took 8:30 off the clock.

The Bulldogs tried to answer but their drive stalled after being stopped two yards short on a fourth-and-9 at the D-C 17.


D-C went down the field, picking up a huge third-and-9 conversion with that aforementioned 35-yard pass to Gillman. It was a gut-punch that led to the Chargers making it a 28-14 game.

"That one was a little disheartening," Lamb said.

But the Bulldogs weren't done yet.

They drove right down the field before a well-designed play saw Hunter Tentis leak out of the flat wide open for a 9-yard touchdown reception with 5:21 left.

Then the ensuing onside kick was a great one from Glenn Schmidt. He got the ball to bounce high into the air where the athletic Schumacher flashed in front of the Chargers' member of the hands team to recover it, giving the ball back to the offense.

Yet, the offense couldn't do anything with it. Four straight incompletions gave the ball back to the Chargers, who were able to run out the clock from there and take home the state title.

"I'm proud of our guys' hearts and the way that they battled out there even though things weren't going the way we wanted them to," Lamb said.

Dassel-Cokato 28, Plainview-Elgin-Millville 21


P-E-M 0-14-0-7 -- 21

D-C 7-7-7-7 -- 28

First quarter

D-C — Eli Gillman 1 run (Tobias Colline kick), 1:30.

Second quarter

PEM — Connor McGuire 1 run (Glenn Schmidt kick), 10:33.

D-C — Gillman 2 run (Colline kick), 0:57.

PEM — Jason Feils 44 run after Kaiden Peters 9 pass from McGuire (Schmidt kick), 0:08


Third quarter

D-C — Gillman 2 run (Colline kick), 3:15

Fourth quarter

D-C — Keyton Johnson 10 run (Colline kick), 8:28

PEM — Hunter Tentis 9 pass from McGuire (Schmidt kick), 5:21.



First downs 16 — 25

Total net yards 312 — 350

Rushes-yards 14-48 — 69-307

Passing yards 264 — 43

Pass att-comp.-int. 20-31-1— 2-2-0

Fumbles lost 0-0 — 1-0

Penalties yards 4-20 — 4-20

Time of Possession 32:44 — 15:16



PEM — Hunter Tentis 6-17, Connor McGuire 4-14, Jason Feils 3-17, Kyler Lamb 1-0. DC — Eli Gillman 32-150, Keyton Johnson 20-90, Hayden Hoernemann 9-56; Monte Gillman 3-11, Gregory Clark 2-1.


PEM — McGuire 20 completions, 31 attempts, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception; DC — Gregory Clark 2-2-0-0.


PEM — Jason Feils 5-75, John Evers 6-62, Peyton Schumacher 2-18, Kaiden Peters 5-91, Tentis 1-9, Lamb 1-9. DC — Gillman 2-43.

Alex VandenHouten has been a sports reporter at the Post Bulletin since Sept. 2021. He loves to go hiking, biking, snowshoeing and just simply being outdoors with his wife Olivia. Readers can reach Alex at
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