Late in the fourth quarter of the Class 6A Prep Bowl, the jumbotron cameras at U.S. Bank Stadium zeroed in on Wayzata running back Christian Vasser taking a much deserved sip of fluids next to the bright orange Gatorade bucket on the Trojans’ sideline. The senior had just scored his fifth touchdown of the game and the Wayzata crowd that filled one side of the lower bowl of the stadium erupted with cheers and applause.
Vasser’s fifth touchdown sealed Wayzata’s 35-20 victory over Champlin Park, and capped a record-breaking performance by the senior running back.
When the final seconds ticked off the clock, Vasser finished with 49 carries for 285 yards and five touchdowns. The 49 carries set a new Prep Bowl record, while the five touchdowns tied a Prep Bowl record.
“It showed out there tonight. We have the best offensive line in the state and there’s no doubt about that and Christian is the best running back in the state and there’s no doubt about that,” Trojans senior quarterback Thomas Schmidt said.
With what transpired on the field, not only in the Prep Bowl, but the entire State Tournament, it’s hard to argue with either of Schmidt’s statements. The Trojans ran a total of 57 plays from scrimmage in the Prep Bowl, with 49 of those plays involving a handoff to Vasser. The Trojans and head coach Lambert Brown basically said “Here’s what we’re going to do, now try and stop us.”
Despite Wayzata’s punishing ground game, Champlin Park built a 17-14 lead at halftime.
After the Rebels took a 10-7 lead midway through the second quarter, the Trojans got a boost from their special teams when senior Sam Robertson returned the ensuing kickoff 81 yards to the Champlin Park 14-yard line.
Six plays later, Vasser found the endzone for the second time to put the Trojans up 14-10.
The Rebels responded behind their 6-foot-4 senior quarterback Jaice Miller. Miller had runs of 24 and 18 yards to set up running back Shawn Shipman’s 7-yard touchdown run with just 15 seconds remaining in the half.
Despite the fact the Trojans hadn’t trailed at halftime in any of their previous 12 games, Brown said the team didn’t panic.
“At one point I just said ‘We’re down three dang points and we get the ball, we’re going to be OK, let’s just go finish,’” Brown said. “We talk about 48 minutes of relentless effort and playing a full four-quarter game. The kids believed and we came out and made some good adjustments on defense and offense.”
One thing the Trojans didn’t adjust was their game plan to rely heavily on Vasser. After both teams failed to move the ball on their first possession of the second half, the Trojans found some rhythm on their second drive of the half.
Five straight runs by Vasser was followed by the Trojans’ only completed pass of the night — a 26-yard connection from Schmidt to tight end Luke Bodine. Bodine’s catch and run set up a 4-yard touchdown run by Vasser to put the Trojans up for good at 21-17.
Wayzata’s defense quickly forced another Champlin Park punt, and the Trojans went right back to work. The Trojans covered 63 yards in eight plays — all running plays to Vasser — to take a 28-17 lead late in the third quarter.
With just over two minutes remaining in the third quarter, Vasser had already surpassed the 200-yard rushing mark and Wayzata’s offensive line had officially taken over the line of scrimmage.
“Most of the time I’m three or four yards downfield before I hit anybody,” Vasser said. “They (the offensive line) do everything coach asks. I trust in them and they trust in me.”
“We just know that if we block hard, Christian’s going to run hard and that’s what it comes down to,” senior offensive lineman Graham Viggers said.
The Rebels kicked a field goal on their next possession to cut the Trojans’ lead to 28-20, but the Trojans and Vasser put any thoughts of a comeback on ice.
Starting at their own 26-yard line, the Trojans gave the ball to Vasser 10 straight times. They were able to milk almost six minutes off the clock and when Vasser walked into the endzone for a fifth time, the Trojans owned an insurmountable 35-20 lead.
The Prep Bowl victory was Wayzata’s fourth state championship in school history, joining teams from 2005, 2008 and 2010.
“This was a perfect season, but it’s also a demonstration of three years of trust and hard work and dedication put into the program,” Vasser said
Brown mentioned in his post-game comments that Brad Anderson, the head coach who presided over the championship seasons in 2005, 2008 and 2010, came back to give the team a pre-game pep talk.
“We’re lucky to be part of a program that has such great tradition with alumni and individuals who want to give back,” Brown said. “We saw this as a chance to get the program back to where we believe it should be. We’re just happy we went 1-0 tonight, which means we’re state champions.”