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Tonka uses long fourth quarter drive to end Prior Lake’s season in the state quarterfinals

By Taylor Smith, 11/15/17, 11:00PM CST


The Lakers' season ended on a late Minnetonka touchdown but football isn't quite over for Preston Jelen, a finalist for the Mr. Football Award, who will play in the All-Star Game.


Week 11 Recap: Minnetonka

Quarterback Aaron Syverson completed four key passes on the game-winning 90-yard drive, including the 15-yard touchdown throw to wide receiver Jackson Owens with 1:12 left in the game as the Minnetonka Skippers defeated the Lakers 10-6 in the state quarterfinals Nov. 10 at Osseo High School, ending Prior Lake’s season.

It was the second time the Skippers (10-1) beat the Lakers (7-4) during the 2017 season. Minnetonka beat Prior Lake 27-8 in Week 4.

The Skippers had the ball first and marched down the field to the Laker 34-yard line but the drive stalled when Jerod Henderson made a tackle in the backfield, forcing a punt.

The Lakers used a strong rushing attack to put together a drive of their own, getting to the Skipper 31-yard line before quarterback Colin O’Connor’s pass, intended for running back Preston Jelen, was intercepted and returned to near midfield.

Despite the turnover, the Prior Lake defense stepped up again when linebacker Zach Wick tackled the running back in the backfield on a fourth-and-short to get the ball back to the Lakers.

The Laker offense rode the momentum of the stop to create their biggest play and only score on the next snap. Jelen took the ball on a toss and got some key blocks from his teammates as he took off down the Laker sideline and into the end zone for a 56-yard touchdown.

The two-point conversion attempt by Dylan Bair was unsuccessful but Prior Lake led 6-0 with 51 seconds left in the opening quarter.

Minnetonka faced a third-and-3 at the Laker 39-yard line on the next possession but a bad snap forced a punt. However, the punt was downed at the 1-yard line, putting the Lakers in the shadow of their own goal line.

Due to the field position and howling wind, the ensuing Laker punt was a short one but Minnetonka gave the ball right back after running back Adam Livingston could not handle a toss from Syverson and the ball was recovered by Ryder Folsom.

The teams exchanged punts on the next few possessions.

The Skippers caught a break late in the second quarter when O’Connor couldn’t handle the snap in the cold weather and set Minnetonka up at the Laker 26-yard line.

Minnetonka did have an opportunity to score a touchdown but Syverson’s pass was too high for his receiver in the end zone and the Skippers settled for a field goal to make the score 6-3 Lakers at halftime.

Both teams struggled to move the ball on their opening drives of the half but the Lakers got the ball to midfield on their second possession. Facing a third-and-9, Jelen took the handoff and it looked as if he may get the first down but the Skippers knocked the ball free to end the Prior Lake drive.

The score remained 6-3 after three quarters.

On the second play of the quarter, the Lakers took a chance and executed a fake punt from their own 39-yard line. The drive did not progress far past midfield but it helped flip field position.

A three-and-out by the Laker defense got the ball back to the Prior Lake offense already in Skipper territory at the 45-yard line. However, the Skipper defense got a three-and-out of their own, forcing a punt and set up what would be the game-winning drive that started at the 10-yard line.

Facing a third-and-7 from the Skipper 24-yard line, Syverson dropped back to pass and pump-faked to his left, avoided a pair of Laker defenders, rolled to his right and threw deep, connecting with wide receiver Owen Freese for a 31-yard gain and a first down at the Prior Lake 45-yard line.

Two plays later, Syverson stepped up in the pocket and completed a pass to Brendon Voorhees for a 24-yard gain down to the Laker 19-yard line.

After a dropped snap and a sack had the Skippers facing a third-and-long, Syverson completed another pass to Freese to create a more manageable fourth-and-6 at the 15-yard line.

Syverson then dropped back, rolled to his left and threw to the end zone, where he connected with Owens, who dove to catch the ball, putting the Skippers ahead with 1:12 left. The extra point pushed the lead to 10-6.

The Lakers, though out of timeouts, had an opportunity to respond and gave themselves a chance after an O’Connor scramble and a completion to wide receiver Spencer Marlier got them near midfield in the final seconds.

However, O’Connor’s pass down the field was intercepted as the clock expired, moving the Skippers into the semifinals and ending the Lakers’ season.

Statistically, the Lakers were led on offense by Jelen who had 100 yards on 14 carries while running back Jordan Johnson had 30 yards on 14 carries and Chandler Dahlquist had 30 yards on nine carries.

Wick was the leading tackler with 15 while Jordan Olson had eight and a group of Lakers each had five.

Minnetonka will play Cretin-Derham Hall Nov. 17 in the semifinals. Maple Grove will play Eden Prairie in the other semifinal Nov. 16.

The winners of the two semifinal games will meet for the state championship Nov. 24.

The semifinals and championship games for all classes will take place at U.S. Bank Stadium.


Mr. Football and All-Star Game

Laker running back Preston Jelen was announced as one of 11 finalists for the 2017 Mr. Football Award.

Jelen finished 2017 with 635 yards on 98 carries and six touchdowns on the ground and 15 catches for 149 yards and one receiving touchdown.

He has started for the Lakers since his sophomore year in 2015, when he played defensive back, before playing both offense and defense in 2016 and being primarily on offense in 2017.

Jelen is the third Laker to be named a finalist for the award since 2013. Blake Weber was a finalist in 2013 and Alex Hart was a finalist in 2014.

The award will be presented to the winner at a banquet Dec. 5 at the Doubletree by Hilton in St. Louis Park.

Jelen was also selected to play in the Minnesota High School All-Star Game Dec. 9 at U.S. Bank Stadium at 3 p.m.


Thank you

Thank you to everyone who read my weekly content this season and to the coaches for allowing this unique opportunity.

Taylor Smith can be reached at or on Twitter at @taysmith2013.