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In 1998, a big hit sent reverberations all the way to Cook County

The Star Tribune is celebrating 50 years of high school football state tournaments one day at a time for 50 days.

Year: 1998

“I thought the biggest thing would be learning how to win again.” — Foley coach Larry Herm about his team winning Class 3A in 1998 after failing to qualify for the section playoffs the year before

Cook County and Adrian combined for 739 yards of total offense. The champion was decided by a mere 6 inches.

On fourth-and-goal with his team trailing by six points in the second overtime, Adrian quarterback Matt Konz hit running back Bryan Metz with a short pass over the middle. Cook County linebacker Troy Berneking met Metz in a brutal goal-line collision. When the pile was cleared, Metz was just shy of the end zone and the unbeaten Vikings had prevailed 38-32 to win their second consecutive Class 1A title. They finished 13-0.

“Hey [Metz] released, and I saw him coming,” Berneking said. “I just got over and hit him as hard as I could.”

Both Berneking and Metz stayed on the ground afterwards, Metz in a state of dejection and Berneking because of a stinger in his right shoulder. Berneking had injured the shoulder previously and aggravated it on the hit.

“I wasn’t in on defense before, but I asked to go in on that last series,” Berneking said. “It was worth it.”

Two other finals were decided late in the fourth quarter by one point, Hutchinson beating Owatonna 21-20 in Class 4A and Mahnomen holding off BOLD 27-26 in Class 2A.

Quarterback Scott Kirchoff threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to senior end Tim Thode with 5:30 left, and the extra-point kick gave Hutchinson his victory. Kirchoff completed 11 of 14 passes for 147 yards.

“Kirchoff can throw, he just hasn’t had to throw,” Hutchinson coach Grady Rostberg said.

Mahnomen used the tag-team battering tandem of Quentin Teeman and Nathan DeVries to edge BOLD. Teeman caused BOLD quarterback Cam Bailey to fumble on a two-point conversion attempt with four minutes remaining to preserve the narrow lead. DeVries ensured it stood up by deflecting two passes on BOLD’s final drive, forcing the Warriors to turn over the ball on downs with 65 seconds remaining.

DeVries also rushed for 198 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries, and Teeman added 84 yards and another score on 21 attempts.

Two other schools won their first and only titles. Woodbury rode the running of Louis Ayeni and throwing Bobby Grandas to beat Champlin Park 28-7 in Class 5A, and Foley bounced back from a winless season in 1997 to knock off Jackson County Central 21-7.

Ayeni rushed for 179 yards, 144 in the first half, and one touchdown on 31 carries, and Grandas’ three completed passes in the first half all went for touchdowns. Twice his target was split end Lane Swansson, on 24- and 28-yarders.

Foley didn’t even qualify for the section playoffs the previous year. Senior quarterback Mike Kieffer threw two touchdown passes, 6 and 89 yards, to Jon David in the final and completed the transition from doormat to champion. Kieffer was 11-for-18 passing for 224 yards

“Certainly you wonder what happened last year, but it was nothing I could put my finger on,” Foley coach Larry Herm said. “We weren’t going to second-guess ourselves. The kids were playing hard. We weren’t having bad practices. We didn’t change that much. We had a good nucleus coming back. I thought the biggest thing would be learning how to win again.”

In Nine-Man, Cromwell’s Mason Hansen tied a championship game record with three interceptions as the Cardinals beat Hillcrest Lutheran 40-22.

State championship games

Class 5A: 28 Woodbury, 7 Champlin Park

Class 4A: Hutchinson 21, Owatonna 20

Class 3A: Foley 21, Jackson County Central 7

Class 2A: Mahnomen 27, BOLD 26

Class 1A: Cook County 38, Adrian 32 (2 OT)

Nine Man: Cromwell 40, Hillcrest Lutheran 22

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