Chaska prides itself in playing a brand of physical style football. Robbinsdale Armstrong gave them a taste of their own medicine.
The Falcons won at the line of scrimmage, doubling up time of possession, handing Chaska its first loss of the season in a 32-14 final Sept. 20.
Robbinsdale Armstrong, ranked No. 5 in Class 5A with a 4-0 record, intercepted four Grif Wurtz passes, three in the decisive second half.
"They were really physical. We made too many mistakes. Turned the ball over too much, gave up a score. We didn't execute like we needed to. They physically beat us upfront," Chaska head coach Bryan Dahl said.
The Falcons outscored the Hawks, ranked No. 6 in Class 5A, 18-0 over the final 24 minutes. Robbinsdale Armstrong totaled 399 yards including more than 200 on the ground.
"The disappointing part was they were in better shape than we were. They were mentally tougher and physically tougher than us tonight," Dahl added.
Turnovers played a key role throughout as Chaska took a 7-0 lead just 36 seconds in on a Nick Stanger 25-yard interception return for a score.
Michael Brown's third interception of the season in Armstrong territory set-up a Stevo Klotz 15-yard run for the 14-7 lead.
It was the only offensive points for the Hawks, who were credited with just 163 yards total.
A 14-14 game at halftime, pinned on their goal line after a pooch punt was executed perfectly, Wurtz's third-down pass found the hands of linebacker Jack Major for an 11-yard defensive score on the interception for Armstrong's first lead at 20-14.
Chaska's offense struggled to move the ball in the second half. Four possessions in the third quarter amounted to no first downs. The first move of the chains on the fifth second-half drive came on a pass interference call.
Defensively, Chaska had no answer for quarterback Jake Breitbach, the third-year starter. His execution over the final three quarters was flawless. Armstrong used a no-huddle offense to wear down the Hawks, keeping the defense always guessing with the run-pass option.
The quarterback's 66-yard run on a third-down play increased the advantage to 26-14 late in the third quarter broke the backs of Chaska, which had two previous drives start in Falcon territory, one on the 23-yard line. An interception ended the Hawks' best chance at reclaiming the lead.
That Breitbach was able to lead the Falcons, sprint 66 yards past the Chaska defense, is a medical miracle. The senior is just six months removed from a torn ACL in his left knee, suffered in the final game of the basketball season.
Football was out of the question when the injury occurred, a 10-month recovery needed. There he was though, back on the field days before the season opener, cleared for play.
"It was the best feeling. Seeing that green space open up. My O line opened a huge hole for me and I just ran as fast as I could," Breitbach said.
Breitbach capped a four-score game in the fourth quarter, connecting with Thai Bowman for their third touchdown reception of the contest. Bowman entered the game with 15 catches for nearly 300 yards and four touchdowns. He was as good as advertised, scoring from two, 23 and four yards out.
Breitbach completed 13-of-25 passes for 194 yards, adding 93 yards of rushing. Bowman caught eight balls for 95 yards with feature back Sean O'Driscoll finishing with 87 yards on 31 rushes.
"We knew this was going to be one of the toughest teams we faced all year. Two of the top-five 5A teams in the state, so we knew it was going to be a battle," Breitbach said. "It was a rough start, I'm not going to lie. The whole team had my back. They were telling me we're going to face adversity, we have to fight through it. We all came together and in the end we got a good result."
Wurtz threw a career-high 28 passes for Chaska, completing 12 for 95 yards. Ethan Bachmann hauled in four catches for 56 yards.
The Hawks' rushing attack was held in check throughout with Klotz (23 yards), Matt Kuntz (22) and Wurtz (21) rushing leaders.
"We weren't very good on first down and we didn't move the chains. We had too many three-and-outs. We could have done a better job on defense to get the ball back in better spots as well," Dahl said.
Marcus Holasek and Klotz were credited with 16 and 10 tackles, respectively.
Chaska beat Robbinsdale Armstrong 27-20 in overtime in week eight in 2018. This time it was the Falcons celebrating in the end.
"It's disappointing, but in the end this is going to be a good thing for us. It's going to be a wake-up call. ... We talked in the end, this doesn't change anything. Our goal is to get better every week. One loss isn't going to define our season. We want to look back, say this is the kick in the shorts that was needed," Dahl said.
Chaska (3-1) is next in action at TCO Performance Center in Eagan against one-win Apple Valley on Friday, Sept. 27. The game will be televised on Fox 9 Plus and broadcast on KFAN Plus 96.7 FM.