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Wow! Kasson-Mantorville rallies to stun No. 1 Becker in state semifinals

Kasson-Mantorville bounced back in the most dramatic of fashions to beat No. 1-ranked Becker 24-20 in the Class AAAA state football semifinals.

Kasson-Mantorville’s Matthew Donovan (4) gestures towards the crowd after the game-winning touchdown was scored during a Class AAAA State Football Semifinal game against Becker Thursday, Nov. 18, 2021, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. Kasson-Mantorville defeated Becker 24-20. Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
Traci Westcott
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MINNEAPOLIS -- The No. 1 ranked team in the state looked like it had it.

Becker seemed to have pushed its way into the Class AAAA football state championship game.

But then Gavin Giesler showed up. And then Matthew Donovan gave him a bunch more help.

And then the earth shook, at least within the communities of Kasson and Mantorville. And in the seats at U.S. Bank Stadium.

No. 7-ranked K-M had made a habit all season of bouncing back from sizable deficits. On Thursday night, the KoMets did it one more time, only this time it was against a team nobody had been able to beat all season, Becker.


But K-M got it done, riding a momentum-turning interception and 56-yard return by Giesler just before the end of the third quarter. Four plays later, K-M was in the end zone.

And 11 minutes and 14 more Kasson-Mantorville points later -- so much of that late output driven by stellar quarterback Donovan -- the KoMets were drama-drenched 24-20 winners in the Class AAAA semifinal game.

How the heck did they do all that in essentially one quarter, and against a team this good? After all, the KoMets had trailed 17-3 heading into the final 12 minutes and had done so little all game long on offense.

The answer: It’s a group that never believes it's out of any contest. So, per usual, it went to work.

"Offensively, they had stalemated us," K-M coach Joel Swanson said. "But we got that big pass interception that turned the game around. I'm just proud of our guys. We were down 17-3, but our kids just kept battling and battling. And that is what life is about, having to keep battling. Make a break, make a break, man. We had all kinds of guys making breaks and doing their job. I'm just so proud of them."

Yes, there is no debate about when and who supplied that KoMets' kick start. That happened just before the third quarter had turned into the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs were operating from the 50-yard line and looking like they might really put the game away, having used all of the third frame to get their offensive act together. They'd just scored a touchdown on their previous possession, marching 60 yards to do it.

But then, it happened. After Becker star quarterback Ryan Bengtson had completed an 18-yard pass on first down from the 50, he tried what seemed to be an innocent and low-risk screen pass.

It turned out to be anything but.


Defensive end Giesler had been listening intently during the week when his defensive coaches told him and the rest of the K-M defenders what to be looking for when Becker tried a screen. Giesler knew just what to do, stepping in front of the intended receiver, picking the ball off and sprinting with it all the way to the Becker 3 before he was tackled.

"It wasn't lucky; we'd been practicing against that play all week," Giesler said. "It was no accident that I picked it off. I just took advantage of an opportunity."

Four difficult run plays later, Kasson-Mantorville was finally in the end zone, quarterback Donovan sneaking in from the 1.

And just like that, K-M had sneaked right back into the game.

It was Donovan who took over the rest of the way. First, he turned in a dazzling punt return after Becker went three-and-out on its next possession. Donovan took the return 38 yards, all the way to the Becker 27. Five plays later, the KoMets were in the end zone again, this time capped by a 3-yard Donovan run with 6:38 left. That tied the score at 17-17.

That was it for scoring until 1:30 remained in regulation, when Becker used a 26-yard field goal to regain the lead, 20-17.

The KoMets were left with a minute and half and 80 yards to work with, needing a touchdown and starting their final crack at it from their own 20.

What were the odds? Ask Donovan and they were still plenty good for his side. That was especially true after he'd run 19 yards, setting K-M up at the 50.


"It was definitely stressful, but we knew what we were doing," said Donovan, who finished the game with 134 yards rushing on 25 carries. "And I knew on that last drive that once we crossed midfield, that we were pretty much unstoppable."

He wasn't wrong and he had almost everything to do with that. He hit Giesler with an 8-yard pass after that, ran the ball 14 yards, and ran it 4 yards to the Becker 14 on the same play that the Bulldogs tackled him by the facemask. Then, there was one more 6-yard run by him with 22 seconds left.

Finally, he finished the deal. On second down from the 7, he found Brooks Buchanan with a pass in the left portion of the end zone. The extra point was nailed by K-M to make it 24-20.

A refusal to give up had gotten it done.

The KoMets are still alive, now hoping to win a state championship. They'll get their chance at 4 p.m. Nov. 26, back at U.S. Bank Stadium, taking on the winner of the other Class AAAA semifinal, between Orono and Hutchinson.


Kasson-Mantorville 0-0-3-21 -- 24

Becker 0-10-7-3 -- 20

Second Quarter

Becker -- Logan Eisele 7 pass from Ryan Bengtson (Zach Bengtson kick), 1:07.

Becker -- Zach Bengtson 36 field goal, :03.

Third Quarter

KM -- AJ Donovan 21 field goal, 5:31.

B -- Alex Weiss 34 pass from Ryan Bengtson (Zach Bengtson kick), 2:29

Fourth Quarter

KM -- Matt Donovan 1 run (AJ Donovan kick), 11:07.

KM -- M. Donovan 3 run (AJ Donovan kick), 6:38.

B -- Z. Bengtson 26 field goal, 1:30.

KM -- Brooks Buchanan 7 pass from M. Donovan (AJ Donovan kick), :9.



First downs 16 -- 15

Total Net Yards 255 -- 271

Rushes-Yards 47-189 -- 32-139

Passing Yards 66 -- 132

Comp.-Att.-Int. 7-18-1 -- 10-18-1

Fumbles-Lost 1-1 -- 1-0

Penalties-Yds. 2-19 -- 3-39



Kasson-Mantorville — Matthew Donovan 25-134, Anthony Moe-Tucker 14-38, Brooks Buchanan 4-16, Evan Snow 1-4. Becker — Carter Callahan 18-106, Ryan Bengtson 4-4, Kabir Bhakta 6-16, Logan Eisele 3-9,


Kasson-Mantorville — Donovan 7 completions, 18 attempts, 1 touchdown, 1 interception, 66 yards. Becker —Ryan Bengtson 10-18-2-1, 132.


Kasson-Mantorville — Gavin Giesler 1-10, Moe-Tucker 1-13, Michael Hoff 1-11, Brooks Buchanan 4-32. Becker -- Alexander Weiss 4-79, Nichilas Berglund 3-14, Landen Goebel 2-32, Logan Eisele 1-7.

Pat has been a Post Bulletin sports reporter since 1994. He covers Rochester John Marshall football, as well as a variety of other southeastern Minnesota football teams. Among my other southeastern Minnesota high school beats are girls basketball, boys and girls tennis, boys and girls track and field, high school and American Legion baseball, volleyball, University of Minnesota sports (on occasion) and the Timberwolves (on occasion). Readers can reach Pat at 507-285-7723 or
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