Standing on the new turf at Chaska High School, it was hard to spot an empty bench seat in the bleachers, or an opening along the fence throughout the perimeter of the stadium.
Hundreds of youth Chaska Chanhassen Football Association were in attendance, honored during halftime.
The marching band, after parading around the field, stopping to play both school songs and the national anthem, took their regular seats in the south end zone.
Football was back, and not just any football game, it was Chaska and Chanhassen for the Jug on a beautiful late summer evening. The crowd so large Chaska High School activities director Jon Summer jumped into action at the ticket gate, missing the first quarter because of the long lines.
While big plays generally dominate high school box scores, on this night it was a defensive battle. A score that resembled a baseball game, not football. Chaska scored a first-half touchdown, holding Chanhassen's offense off the scoreboard in a 6-2 final on Sept. 10.
It is the ninth Jug game victory in 13 meetings between the two schools for Chaska. The Jug is the traveling trophy that is awarded to the winning team in the regular season meeting.
"It was a great atmosphere. These communities put out the best they could for us tonight. You couldn't find an open spot in this stadium, and nothing beats that. These fans made it a special night for us players," Chaska linebacker Max Hatfield said.
Both teams coming off decisive week-one victories, Chaska rushing for more than 350 yards, Chanhassen nearly throwing for 200 yards, a defensive battle wasn't what anyone was thinking.
Explosive plays just weren't there. Chaska's longest play came on the opening drive, a catch of 32 yards from Karver Miller. Chanhassen's top gain came on a short pass-and-run from Charlie Coenen.
It was more what each team's defense was giving up rather than a lack of offense.
"All the respect to Chan. They are an amazing team; probably one of the best we'll face all season. Guys like Gabe Porthan, Josh Kirchoff, nothing but respect for them. They all hit hard. It was physical. It was tough. My (offensive) line gave it everything they got," Chaska running back Jack Boyle, who gained 82 yards on 25 carries, said.
"It started with the first practice this week. From the sophomores to the seniors, every guy came ready to get better, to be ready to go for this one. Every day this week guys came out with the same purpose to be prepared for Chanhassen," Hatfield, who had a team-high 14 total tackles, said.
Chaska's lone score came on its second drive, one that started in the first quarter, and ended on the third play of the second quarter, a one-yard run from Boyle, his fifth of the season.
It was in the Wildcat formation, or "heavy" with Chaska, the addition of multiple extra linemen and Boyle taking the direct snap, where the Hawks were able to push for tough yards.
Three straight runs from Boyle inside the 10-yard line amounted to the eventual winning score.
"I do feel more explosive. I've been training a lot with (assistant coach Kevin Brown) during the off-season. Getting my feet right. A lot of the credit goes to him for where I'm at right now," Boyle said.
The other credit goes to the guys upfront. Chaska's line is an area of strength led by seniors Colton Rada and Ryan Mercer.
"With that O line, they're so great, there's always going to be a hole. It might not always be where it's supposed to be, but it will be somewhere. I just have to be patient and understand that those guys are going to do their jobs and the hole will open up," Boyle said.
Chanhassen had multiple drives extend into Chaska territory, every time stalled by a Hawks defense that seemed to tighten down the closer the Storm got to their end zone.
It was a pass break-up on one fourth down from Benjamin Bowe. It was a fumble recovery on a short run late in regulation. Two Chanhassen drives were pushed back due to penalties.
"Our coaches always use the phrase 'bend, but don't break.' It's about not giving up those big chunk plays. Making teams really work for those final yards," Hatfield said.
Chaska, held to a total of 205 yards, also had trouble sustaining drives outside of the one touchdown. After picking up a fourth down conversion, a 12-yard run from Boyle from Chaska's own 30-yard line in the third quarter, the Hawks turned the ball over on downs on a pass breakup in the end zone by Chanhassen's Tyrique Williams.
The play of the game was certainly the heads up nature of Chaska punter Andrew Schaffer. With 40 seconds left on the clock, a high snap over his head rolled into the end zone. He alertly kicked the ball out of bounds, the Hawks giving up just two points on the safety.
Chanhassen, after three incompletions, did pick up a first down, an acrobatic catch from Coenen. On two attempts at the end zone from the 32-yard line, the first fell wide of the receiver, while the final shot was knocked down by Chaska cornerback Nolan Kemp, one of three Hawks in defense of Coenen.
"This week we added two plays, clamp and cloud, for our (defensive backs). Really to help with those deep balls. Those guys did a great job against their talented receivers tonight," Hatfield said.
It was the 10th all-time win in 16 games, including playoffs, for Chaska over Chanhassen. It also gives Chaska the inside edge on a better seed come post-season time.
"This atmosphere tonight, it was crazy. You definitely get up, play harder, when you have the city behind you. This was an incredible night for our team, for our school," Boyle said.
Chaska (2-0), which got 73 passing yards on six completions and 30 rushing yards from quarterback Brayden Sanders, hosts Benilde-St. Margaret in week three on Sept. 17.
The Red Knights have been outscored 75-23 in losses to Irondale and Spring Lake Park in the first two weeks.
Chanhassen (1-1) is at Spring Lake Park in week three. The Panthers, in addition to beating Benilde-St. Margaret, also topped Cretin-Derham Hall 34-24 in the opener.