MINNEAPOLIS - The Thanksgiving Day turkey is going to taste extra sweet for the Dawson-Boyd Blackjacks this year.
On Saturday, Dawson-Boyd improved to 12-1 overall with a 27-18 win over Sleepy Eye St. Mary's (12-1) in an MSHSL Class A Football State Tournament semifinal game at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.
The Blackjacks, who were Class A state champions in 2011, are going back to the title game to face Mahnomen (13-0), which is the defending Class A state champ.
Photo by Jeff Arenz
Dawson-Boyd receiver Noah Stelter runs for the end zone after catching a 24-yard touchdown pass from Joey Lee against Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s during the MSHSL Class A Football State Tournament semifinals Saturday at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. St. Mary’s defender Jaden Wait is at left.
"It's kind of our goal, when we have a situation like this, we want to change everybody's Thanksgiving plans. And I think (our fans) don't mind," Dawson-Boyd head coach Cory Larson said. "It's a pretty good feeling to be back in the state championship game."
The Indians advanced to the Prep Bowl with a 19-0 shutout of Bethlehem Academy in another Class A state semifinal Saturday at the Metrodome.
Kickoff for the Class A Prep Bowl is slated for 10 a.m. Nov. 30 at the Metrodome.
Quarterback Joey Lee lifted the spirits of the Blackjacks by throwing for two touchdowns and running for two more.
His first-quarter 36-yard TD toss to cousin Michael Lee helped Dawson-Boyd grab a 7-0 lead before Easton Popma completed the extra-point kick.
"St. Mary's likes to run the ball and they are capable of passing it. They are a great team for making it this far," Lee said. "Fortunately, we were able to get a lead on them and that was a big part of this game. We got a lead and made them play from behind."
The game remained a seven-point margin until the Blackjacks won the battle of field position late in the first quarter. With the Knights pinned on their own 17-yard line and facing fourth down, Michael Lee returned Lucas Heiderscheidt's 31-yard punt to the St. Mary's 35-yard line.
Dawson-Boyd went on a nine-play march that ended in the end zone when Joey Lee plunged in from 1 yard out with 10:12 left in the first half.
Although John Brandl blocked Popma's PAT kick, the Blackjacks had a 13-0 lead.
St. Mary's, which finished the first half strong with special teams, was looking to get back into the game.
This time, a Knights' punt had pinned Dawson-Boyd on its own 6-yard line and, after a three-and-out, forced the Blackjacks to punt.
When St. Mary's took over, the Knights were 11 yards outside the red zone and needed only one play to score. That's when quarterback Brandon Helget took the snap and ran the ball for a 31-yard touchdown with 2:32 left before halftime.
Helget's two-point conversion pass failed as the Blackjacks' lead was trimmed to 13-6.
St. Mary's, which deferred until the second half, came within one point of Dawson-Boyd on its first possession in the third quarter. The Knights completed a four-play, 71-yard drive with a 63-yard touchdown pass from Helget to David Surprenant.
Helget attempted to give St. Mary's the lead, but his second two-point conversion pass was deflected by Hunter Olson as the Blackjacks clung to a 13-12 edge at the 9:58 mark of the third quarter.
After an ankle injury to featured running back Dalton Palmer was a huge blow to the Dawson-Boyd offense on its next possession, Joey Lee stepped up the Blackjacks' passing attack.
The senior signal-caller found Michael Lee open for a 32-yard gain to the Knights' 29-yard line before being sacked by Mike Hirsch for a six-yard loss and connecting with Noah Stelter for a 24-yard touchdown pass on third-and-16.
"I rolled out to the right and, with Michael Lee being such a great receiver, St. Mary's attention was focused on him," Joey Lee said. "So, they put a safety over the top of Noah. He didn't have to beat the defender by a lot, but he did a great job and he made a great catch on the ball."
Stelter hauled in Joey Lee's two-point conversion pass as the Blackjacks went ahead 21-12 with 7:35 left in the third quarter.
The game remained a 21-12 margin for the next 15 minutes until one of the strangest football plays happened.
Facing a second-and-7 inside Knights' territory, Joey Lee took advantage his own mistake that stunned and stopped the play of both teams without a whistle sounding. A split-second later, the Dawson-Boyd quarterback shocked everyone inside the Metrodome by running untouched for a 38-yard touchdown.
"It wasn't a bad snap. I think I took my hands away too early," Joey Lee said. "I looked down and our center was still holding the ball between his legs. It was almost a fumblerooski or something like that. I just grabbed the ball and ran."
Larson liked the result of the play that could have been a disaster.
"We'll just say it was a designed play, but it was not," Larson said jokingly.
When the Blackjacks attempted a two-point conversion with 4:27 left, Joey Lee's pass was intercepted.
"Us not getting the two-point conversion to put the game away and push the lead to three scores was a big play," Larson said. "But not allowing St. Mary's to convert was huge, as well."
Trailing 27-12, St. Mary's put one more touchdown on the scoreboard with 2:35 left. Helget finished an eight-play, 69-yard possession with a four-yard run to the end zone. His third conversion pass failed as Dawson-Boyd had its nine-point margin.
The Knights attempted an on-side kick, but the Blackjacks easily recovered a high bounce and ran out the clock.
Larson is happy to have two weeks to prepare for the Prep Bowl.
"When you're in this situation, I think you would like to play a week later because your team is rolling," Larson said. "But I think we're happy to have two weeks to prepare because it gives our running backs (Michael Anyasike and Dalton Palmer) a chance to heal. We just hope that the injury is nothing serious."
NOTE: Palmer, who was sidelined for the final 21 minutes, left the bench area on crutches after the game ended.
MSHSL CLASS A FOOTBALL STATE TOURNAMENT
At Metrodome, Minneapolis
DAWSON-BOYD 27, SLEEPY EYE ST. MARY'S 18
Sleepy Eye St. Mary's0666-18
DB - Michael Lee 36 pass from Joey Lee (Easton Popma kick), 6:29.
DB - Joey Lee 1 run (Easton Popma kick blocked), 10:12.
SM - Brandon Helget 31 run (Brandon Helget pass failed), 2:32.
SM - David Surprenant 63 pass from Brandon Helget (Brandon Helget pass failed), 9:58.
DB - Noah Stelter 24 pass from Joey Lee (Noah Stelter pass from Joey Lee), 7:35.
DB - Joey Lee 38 run (Joey Lee pass intercepted), 4:27.
SM - Brandon Helget 4 run (Brandon Helget pass failed), 2:35.
Total Net Yards310314
Time of Possession23:2724:33
Third-Down Conversions3 of 113 of 13
Fourth-Down Conversions1 of 22 of 5
RUSHING - Dawson-Boyd (Dalton Palmer 13-69, Joey Lee 9-41, Michael Anyasike 11-21, Christian Thoen 1-4); St. Mary's (David Surprenant 16-103, Brandon Helget 19-90, Cole Reinarts, 1-7, Jaden Wait 8-4, Lucas Heiderscheidt 1-1).
PASSING - Dawson-Boyd (Joey Lee 7-19-175-2-1); St. Mary's (Brandon Helget 5-14-109-1-1).
RECEIVING - Dawson-Boyd (Michael Lee 3-79, Kyler Collins 2-60, Noah Stelter 1-24, Karson Lindblad 1-12); St. Mary's (David Surprenant 1-63, Jared Rothmeier 1-24, Jordan Kosak 1-21, John Brandl 1-7, Mike Hirsch 1-minus 6).
TACKLES - Dawson-Boyd (Keith Abraham 8, Noah Stelter 7, Michael Anyasike 6, Karson Lindblad 4, Jamie Arvold 4, Hunter Olson 3, Joey Lee 3, Michael Lee 3, Zach Stratmoen 2, Christian Thoen 2, Dalton Palmer 2, TEAM 2, Kyler Collins 1, Donny Bothun 1, Jordan Bothun 1, Easton Popma 1, Ryan Schueller 1); St. Mary's (Mike Hirsch 7, Carter Krzmarzick 5, Andrew Steffi, John Brandl 3, Lucas Heiderscheidt 3, Kyle Strate 3, David Surprenant 3, Jared Rothmeier 3, Nathan Lax 2, Alex Sellner 2, Cole Reinarts 2, Jon Kopacek 1, Jaden Wait 1, Kodan Kosak 1, Brandon Helget 1).
SACKS - Dawson-Boyd (none); St. Mary's (Mike Hirsch 2).
INTERCEPTIONS - Dawson-Boyd (Michael Lee); St. Mary's (Alex Sellner).