MINNEAPOLIS — St. Michael-Albertville finally broke through in the Prep Bowl.
Mitchell Kartes rushed for 141 yards and two touchdowns as the Knights held off St. Thomas Academy 28-21 on Saturday to win its first Class 5A championship. They lost in the state semifinals the past two years.
Jacob Veire threw for 177 yards and Isaiah Weston had a touchdown reception for the Knights (12-1).
"We just made a couple more plays," Veire said.
Especially late on defense. A 7-yard, fourth-down reception by Woody Hubbell got St. Thomas Academy (11-2) to within 28-21 with 4:16 to play. The Knights then went three-and-out, giving the Cadets — who burned a couple timeouts in the process — the ball 37 seconds later.
"I thought we were going to really do it," Cadets coach Dave Ziebarth said.
John Zimmer made sure that wouldn't happen. After a quick first-down, the senior linebacker sacked Tommy Dolan on back-to-back plays. An incompletion and short run gave the ball back to St. Michael-Albertville on downs.
"It was a combination of some talented guys up front and a couple of timely blitzes," Knights coach Jared Essler said. "The situation of the game really allowed us to get after the quarterback."
That was done without the team's leading tackler: Evan Ronsen missed the second half with a sore back.
He wasn't the only key Knight to not finish the game. Eric Sjelin, the leading rusher for St. Michael-Albertville with 1,186 yards entering the game, left in the second quarter and was using crutches in the second half. That put the rushing onus on Kartes, a sophomore who had 1,020 yards on the ground this season.
"It's unfortunate that Eric got hurt, but we were all playing for him," Veire said. "Mitchell really had a look in his eyes like he was going to run the ball hard."
A 9-yard run by Sjelin gave St. Michael-Albertville a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter, but Dolan and Mac Brown connected on an 83-yard score to tie the game late in the frame.
Sean McFadden's 4-yard run gave St. Thomas Academy a 14-7 lead with 4:07 to play in the first half. But a 36-yard pass from Veire to Austin Veire keyed a 77-yard drive that was capped by a 1-yard plunge from Kartes to even the score in the final minute of the first half.