Storm outlasts Cadets in OT thriller

Prep Bowl

Class AAAAA

Chanhassen 34, St. Thomas Academy 31 OT

Chanhassen wins 5A title on final play

Daxton Bush is one of 34 seniors who will go down in history as the first football team at Chanhassen High School to become state champions.

And years from now he will have someone to reminisce about the legendary 34-31 overtime win over St. Thomas Academy. That’s because his little brother, Kade, was the one who scored the game winning touchdown.

“There’s not a better feeling than seeing my little brother go out and score the state championship winning TD,” said Daxton.

After St. Thomas Academy broke a 28-28 tie with a 26-yard field goal, Chanhassen was faced with fourth and goal from the 2-yard line and instead of kicking a field goal to force a second OT, opted to go for the win. Senior QB Brayden Windschitl, out of the shotgun, hit Kade Bush in the end zone, giving the Storm the win and their first state title in their first state tournament appearance in program history.

The game mirrored the previous night’s Class 6A match up where two evenly matched teams few thought would be the last two teams standing played until the final buzzer with a last-minute play deciding the game. Last night it was Edina going for the win down one, but coming up short. Chanhassen was more fortunate and capped off their undefeated season while St. Thomas Academy finished 10-3.

“Both are great teams,” said STA star running back and Mr. Football finalist Savion Hart. “We fought to the end, we feel good that we fought as hard as you can. Nobody expected us to be here.”

Mr. Football finalist Savion Hart led the Cadets with 226 yards rushing and two touchdowns. PHOTO BY JACKSON BOLINE

Hart’s Mr. Football counterpart was Chanhassen’s Maxwell Woods, also up for the award for the state’s top senior player.

Woods got the Storm brewing, taking a pitch and making two guys miss, he broke to the outside and went all the way for 76 yards. The Storm offense moved with urgency after going 80 yards in two plays.

The Storm touchdown came after an opening drive for the Cadets that took 9:37 off the clock and consisted of 16 plays and 71 yards. On 4th and Goal, however, STA was whistled for delay of game and then missed a field goal attempt.

The quarter ended with Chanhassen leading 7-0.

The Cadets tied it early in the second quarter on an 11-play, 86-yard drive where Hart carried most of the workload, accumulating more than 50 yards on the drive. The big play came when senior QB Max Sims found senior Luke Dobbs on a 22-yard deep throw down the middle to give the Cadets a critical first down when facing 4th and 18. Hart capped off the drive by shifting his way into the end zone for a 12-yard rushing touchdown with under four minutes left to play. The Cadets had 242 total yards in the first half courtesy of Hart’s 18 carries, 132 rushing yards, and one touchdown.

Chanhassen’s Maxwell Woods led the charge for the Storm with 215 yards rushing and two touchdowns. PHOTO BY JACKSON BOLINE

The Storm kept their composure as Woods took a handoff on 3rd and 10 and accelerated for 58 yards to put Chanhassen on St. Thomas’ 12-yard line. Windschitl finished off the drive with a 1-yard score and a Hayden McDaniel kick gave the Storm a 14-7 cushion to end the half.

The Woods vs. Hart battle was raging as Woods garnered 156 rushing yards in the first half to Hart’s 132. However, the Cadets had 15 first downs to Chanhassen’s 9, yet trailed 14-7.

St. Thomas came out of the locker room trying to get some momentum with an onside kick that was recovered by Chanhsseen on their 49. It shortened the field for Woods, who went back to work on the ground getting a crucial 17-yard run. Shortly after, on the 10-yard line, Woods finished what he started, escaping a defender and going head up with another at the goal line to score a touchdown and give the Storm a 21-7 lead.

To break through their offensive rut, the Cadets turned to the passing game. After making two passes to Dobbs for 11 and 18 yards, Sims sent a floating pass to junior Chase Young for 34 yards, landing on Chanhassen’s 2-yard line. With five minutes remaining in the third quarter, he found Dobbs again in the right corner of the end zone, cutting Chanhassen’s lead to 21-14.

The teams traded possessions as the defenses stood their ground. Things picked back up offensively for the Cadets with around nine minutes to play. The tireless Hart ran hard again, carrying the ball 10 times on a 12-play drive. On 4th and 1 from the Chanhassen 7-yard line, Hart collided hard with a defender, but fought hard for the first down to keep the drive alive. On the next play Hart scored his second touchdown of the day, but after a failed two-point conversion, the Cadets trailed the Storm 21-20.

The Storm had a hard time offensively on the next drive as the Cadet’s defense played stout. They managed to put the Storm in a 3rd and 13 situation but senior Daxton Bush took a reverse and jetted out to the right hash shedding a defender before trotting into the end zone 62 yards later. Chanhassen extended their lead to 28-20 with two minutes left to go in the game.

It only took 1:11 for the Cadets to drive down the field. Sims hit Dobbs, Chase Young, and Nichael Stavseth with multiple passes to get them to the Chanhassen 15-yard line. Sims then threw his second touchdown pass of the day to Young, making the score at 28-26. A two-point conversion by Hart resulted in the first-ever overtime match in the history of the 5A Prep Bowl as the teams were deadlocked at 28-28.

Luke Dobbs caught 11 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown to help lead the Cadets offense. PHOTO BY JACKSON BOLINE

The Cadets kicked the field goal on the first possession of overtime, which led to the game-winning score that almost didn’t happen. That’s because the sure-handed and fleet-footed Woods fumbled not once, but twice in the final drive. His first fumble was recovered by Kade Bush, giving the younger Bush not one, but two huge plays in the overtime. Moments later he caught his only pass on the night as the Storm faithful erupted with thunderous cheers with the thrilling victory.

The game was an instant classic as two teams and two premiere running backs went toe-to-toe beyond 60 minutes to decide who would raise the 5A trophy in the end.

Woods and Hart both applauded the other team’s effort after the hard-fought battle.

“They forced us to play our best game,” said Woods. “Credit to them for being a great team.”

“This is the most physical game that I can say I’ve had this year,” Hart said. “In games like this, you have to do everything 100 percent.”

Woods finished with 215 yards on 20 carries with two touchdowns. Hart finished with 37 carries for 231 yards and also scored twice.

STA quarterback Max Sims also turned in a solid performance with 19 completions for 239 yards and two touchdowns. Dobbs led all receivers with 11 catches for 140 yards and a touchdown. Young had two catches for 42 yards and a score.

Chanhassen QB Windschitl was efficient with a 7-for-12 night for 57 yards and a lone touchdown on the final play of the evening. In a game where Woods and Daxton Bush (3 carries for 77 yards and a touchdown) carried the offense on its backs with close to 300 yards rushing, it was Windschitl and Kade Bush who made the biggest play at the biggest time.

If the two teams played 10 times, they may go 5-5. But tonight it was Chanhassen’s turn to make history. Both teams fought until the very end, a credit to the players and coaching staffs on remarkable seasons, a season that literally came down to one final play.

“Our kids have done a good job in preparing and adjusting,” said Chanhassen Head Coach Cullen Nelson. “Everyone works really hard and does the right thing. We talk about playing until they turn the lights off.”

The lights have since been turned off, but the spotlight will continue to shine on the Chanhassen Storm, 2023 Class 5A State Champions.