Last year, Minnesota high school St. Michael-Albertville made news when they gagged up a huge late lead by letting Maple Grove score 19 points in the game’s final 59 seconds. On Friday, STMA found redemption by pulling off a wild fourth-quarter comeback of their own that featured three consecutive onside kick recoveries, four touchdowns, and a big two point conversion that set them up for the win.
Coming into the fourth quarter, St. Michael-Albertville was getting blanked by Edina in their Minnesota Class 6A playoff game by a score of 28-0. It wasn’t until midway through the fourth that STMA finally got on the scoreboard with a four-yard Desean Philips TD with 6:32 remaining.
Philips, who rushed for 171 yards and three of St. Michael-Albertville’s touchdowns, then handed things over to his team’s co-MVP for the night, Brandon Langdok. It was Langdok who recovered STMA’s ensuing onside kick, which set up a second Philips rushing TD with five minutes on the clock.
Probably feeling that the football gods were on their side, St. Michael-Albertville elected once again to attempt an onside kick; once again, Langdok came up with a clutch recovery. Less than a minute after that, Langdok was celebrating in the end zone after hauling in a 14-yard pass from quarterback Jared Duda. STMA coach Jared Essler followed that touchdown with the gutsy but logically sound decision to go for the two-point conversion, and was rewarded when Philips came through with a powerful run to convert.
At that point, with 4:12 on the clock and the score at 28-22, St. Michael-Albertville pushed their luck once more and went for their third onside kick in a row. The result was the same: an STMA recovery. It took STMA a few minutes to make their way down into scoring position, but with 1:31 left Philips came up big yet again with a one-yard scoring run. The kicker’s extra point gave St. Michael-Albertville the 29-28 lead, and a late interception sealed the win.
After the game, Essler expressed how last year’s debacle affected the group, and how pleased he was that the current team was able to exorcise those demons. From Northstar Football News:
“Our kids have been through a lot,” St. Michael-Albertville head coach Jared Essler said. “I’m proud of the way our seniors hung in there because last year they were kind of the laughingstock, it went viral in the wrong way. I’d like for them to a have a little positive publicity. I wish I could bring my 2017 seniors back and they could be a part of it because that was a hard way for them to end.”
Edina player Jake Boltmann had difficulty wrapping his head around how his team managed to blow such a commanding lead. “It was a tough game,” he said. “It’s still not sinking in, I’ve never seen anything like that.”
Langdok, meanwhile, had only a year ago seen first-hand something quite similar to what his team pulled off just then, and he was happy to have experienced the happy ending this time around:
“We definitely know what it’s like to be on both sides of that,” Langdok said. “It was nice to get on the winning side this time. Definitely, it was for those guys last year. We weren’t happy with the way it ended last year. That’s kind of what we’re dedicating this year to.”