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Plainview-Elgin-Millville ready to fulfill its dream

The P-E-M Bulldogs have their sights set on the program's second state football title when they take on Dassel-Cakato at 1 p.m. Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium

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Plainview-Elgin-Millville’s Jason Feils (29) and Baden Fenton (7) celebrates after Feils scored a touchdown during a Class AAA State Football Semifinal game against Annandale Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
Traci Westcott

Kevin Lamb’s Thanksgiving was a little different this year.

In fact, early this week, the Plainview-Elgin-Millville head football coach was not even sure exactly what was in store for the Lamb family on Thursday. Yet for him, along with the rest of the Bulldogs, that was just fine.

They have a state championship game to prepare for.

“It’s very surreal,” Lamb said. “We’ve got a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving week. Just blessed to have this opportunity.”

The Bulldogs earned that opportunity by knocking off Annandale 28-6 in the Class AAA semifinals behind yet another stellar effort from their defense. After allowing just more than 13 points per game in the regular season, the Bulldogs’ defense had entered the semifinal allowing an average of just fewer than 10 points in four postseason contests.

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They lowered that number against the Cardinals behind five interceptions -- including one returned for a touchdown by Peyton Schumacher. It was one of three picks recorded by Schumacher, who also had a 72-yard touchdown reception, as P-E-M reached its first Prep Bowl since winning it all in 2002. The Bulldogs will face Dassel-Cokato at 1 p.m. Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium for the state championship.

But perhaps what’s even scarier: Lamb thinks overall, the Bulldogs could have played better last week.

“I think we actually had quite a few mental errors. I know that we could have played a much better game,” Lamb said. “Defensively, I think our guys played really well, but we weren’t mistake-free on defense either. We definitely missed some tackles we aren’t used to missing. Offensively, that first drive was chaos, and we really had a hard time getting anything consistent going other than that one drive to start the second half -- and we needed a fake punt to make that one go. So I’m really looking forward to our guys being able to show a cleaner game.”

RELATED:

  • Photos: Plainview-Elgin-Millville, Annandale Class AAA State Football Semifinal Plainview-Elgin-Millville defeated Annandale 28-6 during a Class AAA State Football Semifinal game Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

  • Plainview-Elgin-Millville flies into Prep Bowl Plainview-Elgin-Millville downed Annandale 28-6 in the Class AAA state semifinals.

  • A Prep Bowl Primer: A Glance at all 7 high school football state championship game matchups Section 1 will be well represented at this week's Prep Bowl, with Kasson-Mantorville (Class AAAA), Plainview-Elgin-Millville (Class AAA), Chatfield (Class AA) and LeRoy-Ostrander (9-Man) all playing for state titles. Here's a look at all seven championship games set for Friday or Saturday.

Yet, Lamb was really pleased with how the Bulldogs acclimated to the dry, warm air inside the home of the Minnesota Vikings. He credits that to games of floor hockey he had the team play inside the P-E-M gymnasium where -- donned in their pads and helmets -- the competition was fierce.
“They were smart enough not to be smashing each other into the bleachers,” Lamb said with a laugh. “And we didn’t have any sore shins from hockey sticks or anything. … The guys on the bench were slamming their stick handles against the wooden bleachers. It was just like a dang hockey game. It was hilarious.”

This week the Bulldogs primed for games of kickball in their helmets as they continue to not only do their best to combat the effects of playing in the dome, but also tried to ease some of the stress that comes with it.

“If we get them competing in practice, then they work hard and the stress goes away, because they are just out playing and having fun,” Lamb said. “So we definitely have competitions mixed in with our skills and stuff during practice.”

Dassel-Cokato has been providing plenty of stress for opponents all season long.

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The top-ranked Chargers enter Saturday’s title game undefeated behind a potent rushing attack that averages more than 354 yards on the ground. Lamb admitted it’s a similar style to Cannon Falls, who the Bulldogs held to just 18 points, well below their season average of 41. But the Bombers didn’t have a player who can take a game over, like D-C's Eli Gillman.

The senior running back and University of Montana commit has put up video game-type numbers, rushing for 2,061 yards and 39 touchdowns on 271 carries behind what Lamb calls a "large" offensive line. Gillman had 140 yards and scored all three touchdowns, including the game-winner with 1:26 left, to lift the Chargers past Esko 21-14 in the semifinals.

“He’s an amazing athlete,” Lamb said. “They use him all over the field. He’s very gifted and amazing in terms of speed, balance and vision. I’m sure that’s why he’s going to go on and play big-time college football next year. At the same time, I think we are lucky that it’s not a one-man game. We have a number of athletes on our side that have seen a similar offense in Cannon Falls -- it was equally as powerful and our guys rose to the occasion.”

Lamb acknowledged how well-coached Dassel-Cokato is as a team. The man responsible for that? Wabasha-Kellogg High School graduate Ryan Weinandt, who is in his 18th year and helped lead the Chargers to a Class AAA runner-up finish in 2019.

“I remember coaching against him in high school when he was playing football and wrestling against us,” Lamb said. “I’m sure this is going to be personal for him. It was a huge rivalry with Wabasha-Kellogg and us back in the day and I’m sure it’s going to be an emotional and kind of personal thing for him.”

At the end of the day, it appears to be exactly what football fans want in a championship game: Two talented, well-disciplined teams that are hungry to be labeled the best.

“Whoever shows up to play and commits the fewest mental errors is going to come away with a championship on Saturday,” Lamb said.

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