Cougars reach Prep Bowl for first time since 1984
Daylen Cummings completed just five passes Thursday night, but made the biggest completion of his life in the fourth quarter to a streaking Josh Lee that led to the game-winning touchdown in a 20-13 win over Lakeville South.
The win puts the Cougars into the Prep Bowl final of the first time since 1984.
“It feels amazing,” said Cummings. “This is a dream come true.”
The Cougars were coming off a 24-0 win over Rosemount in the quarterfinals one year removed from the Irish beating them 27-0 last season to advance to the semifinals.
Centennial entered Thursday’s game against Lakeville South with a 10-1 record, their only loss coming to Maple Grove 41-28 on Sept. 14. Maple Grove, meanwhile, was ousted by Edina, who will be Centennial’s opponent in the 6A prep Bowl at US Bank Stadium.
Lakeville South, meanwhile, was coming off a 35-34 nail-biting win over East Ridge. Their only loss on the year coming in to Thursday’s contest was against Rosemount, 22-21, on Oct. 6.
Due to the parity in 6A football this season, every game was anybody’s game. Eden Prairie, who would lose on Friday night to Edina (who started the season 1-3) was the only unbeaten team in 6A coming into the playoffs.
Lakeville opened the scoring Thursday in the first quarter on a 45-yard TD run by Connor Cade on their second drive after a solid 16-yard punt return by Bo Bokman into Centennial territory.
After that first score, the defenses from both teams took over with just one first down allowed the rest of the quarter.
Finally, Centennial took over with seven minutes to go in the half. Cummings hit Lee on a 15-yard play on 3rd and 6 for their first first down of the game. Using a three-back set, Ty Burgoon, Brock Burgraff, Maverick Harper and Cummings ran six consecutive run plays capped off with an 8-yard TD run by Cummings. But their two-point conversion failed and they trailed 7-6.
The Cougars had another shot at the end zone late in the half, but Lakeville South’s Josh Bergan sacked Cummings on second and goal for a huge loss as time expired.
But the Cougar defense would also come up big early in the third quarter when Will Quick intercepted a Gaven Dean pass at the Centennial 28-yard line and returned the ball to the 41. That led to a 13-play drive,12 of them runs, capped off again by Cummings scoring from two yards out. The big play of the drive came when Centennial faced 4th and 7 on Lakeville South’s 44. Lakeville South was whistled for offsides giving Centennial 4th and 2 and the better option of running the ball, which Cummings did for a 6-yard gain and a first down.
But once again the two-point conversion failed and the third quarter ended with Centennial leading 12-7.
But Lakeville South battled back when Jonah Shrine busted through the right side of the Centennial defense on their 12th play of the drive and into the end zone on a 35-yard touchdown score. A missed conversion gave Lakeville South a 13-12 lead with just under 11 minutes to play.
Centennial got the ball back on their own 25, but three plays later found themselves faced with 4th and 6 from their own 29-yard line. But they opted to go for it and Cummings made a Cousins-like throw down the middle of the field, just out of the reach of two Lakeville South defenders, hitting Lee in stride who sprinted into the end zone. The 71-yard score was capped off with a successful two-point conversion for a 20-13 lead.
“I have to give credit to our O-line,” said Cummings. “They gave me time to set my feet and deliver a good ball to Josh who ran a great route.”
But there was still 7:54 on the clock, plenty of time for Lakeville South to mount a comeback. They just needed one drive resulting in one score. But the Centennial defense stood tall, forcing a punt with 5:01 to play. After not getting a first down in the first quarter, now was the time for the Centennial offense to strategically move the ball, which they did, converting on two fourth-down plays and more importantly eating up the remaining time in the game. Lakeville South never got another chance to score. On 4th and 1 from their own 40 Centennial senior fullback Marcus Whiting barreled himself forward for a first down. Then on 4th and 9 from the Lakeville 37, Lakeville South was called for encroachment, making it 4th and 4. Cummings then had his second biggest pass of the season when he hit Henrik Hiltner who was tackled near the first down marker.
An official measurement was ordered as the ball was placed near the Centennial sideline where coaches and players waited in anticipation. A first down and they were heading to the Prep Bowl. If they were short, Lakeville South still had time for a desperation drive.
The measurement marked a first down as the Centennial sideline and fans erupted in cheer as the Cougars were headed to the Prep Bowl for the first time since the days of the old Metrodome.
Centennial racked up 354 total yards with 191 on the ground led by Harper who had 63 yards on 18 carries. Burgoon had 50 yards on 10 carries and Burggraff 24 yards on four carries.
Lakeville South earned 152 yards on 35 carries led by Cade with 69 yards on 12 rushes. Shrine rushed for 43 yards and QB Dean had 32 yards on five carries. Gabriel Jacobson also had 23 yards on seven carries.
Centennial’s Cummings rushed for 43 yards and scored twice and threw for 163 yards on 5-for-10 throwing. Lee led receivers with three catches for 121 yards. Burggraff also had a big catch for 38 yards.
Despite the slow start, Centennial finished with 16 first downs to Lakeville South’s nine. They also almost doubled up on time of possession at 28:29 to Lakeville’s 15:02. They finished 4-for-5 on fourth down conversions.
Cummings gave credit to the team’s defensive effort in holding a talented Lakeville South squad to just 13 points.
“We started the game out rough on offense,” he said. “But after we got our feet underneath us we got rolling like we usually do. I have to give props to the defense for holding Lakeville while we figured it out on offense.”
Now they will have to figure out how to defeat an Edina team that nobody has been able to figure out for the past eight weeks. Either way, it’s an exciting time for Centennial football fans and players who are back in the Prep Bowl after almost four decades.
“The whole team and I have been working our butts off to get to this game,” said Cummings. “We are all very excited to be in it.”