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Playoff heartbreak:
Sartell rallies past Storm, 15-14


It was not supposed to end this way. Not this soon, anyway. And especially not at the hands of an arch-rival.

Yet unpredictability is part of life in high school sports, and it stung the Sauk Rapids-Rice football team in a big way. The top-seeded Storm suffered a heart-wrenching 15-14 loss to Sartell in the Section 8AAAAA semifinals on a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon at Sauk Rapids-Rice Middle School Stadium.

SRR finished 6-3 for the second straight season, both of which ended in the semifinals on its home field.

“The last loss of the season always kicks you. It always hurts,” Storm coach Phillip Klaphake said. “You see the kids immediately go into tears, and that’s how it’s supposed to be. I told them I cried after every high school season I ever played. You invest so much time and energy into a season and when it ends, there’s going to be an emotional reaction. It shows how invested they were in this team.”

Things looked good for the early for the Storm, who got a pair of one-yard touchdown runs from quarterback Keegan Patterson in the second quarter for a 14-0 lead. Momentum changed just before halftime when Sartell quarterback Cole Hentges eluded pressure before finding Andrew Tavale for a 22-yard touchdown on fourth-and-10.

The teams traded turnovers and defensive stops the rest of the way until a frantic final two minutes. The Storm were driving in Sartell territory and likely needed only one more first down to run out the clock, but a holding penalty led to an eventual punt.

It only took the Sabres three plays to go 80 yards for the winning score. A pair of Hentges to Dylan Simones receptions gained 38 yards, then Hentges found Parker Knutson, who sprinted for a 52-yard touchdown with 1 minute, 46 seconds remaining.

The play was not without controversy. A sideline official threw his cap, indicating Knutson went out of bounds then came back into play and was the first to touch the ball – which is illegal. Officials told the SRR coaching staff Knutson was forced out of bounds. Video appeared to show no Storm player touched Knutson before the catch, but the official’s decision was final.

Things only got crazier from there. One play after Patterson hit the ground hard and left with a shoulder injury, SRR reached the Sartell 26-yard line when Shaun Walrath was stuffed for a three-yard loss, but an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Sabres gave the Storm new life.

Senior Jack Klein, who started the season at quarterback but suffered a broken arm Sept. 10, returned to action and played defensive back most of the game. With Patterson out, he resumed quarterbacking duties and rushed for seven yards to set up a field goal attempt.

A slightly high snap slightly threw off kicker Leif Rudnick’s timing, and his 34-yard field goal sailed wide left.

Sartell (5-5) will play at Moorhead for the section title Nov. 4. The Spuds beat Alexandria 35-28 in the other semifinal.

The Sabres defensive game plan was obvious – stop Storm receiver Andrew Harren. Sartell had two players surrounding Harren the entire game, holding him to two catches for 16 yards. Patterson completed 9 of 20 passes for 117 yards and interception before leaving the game in obvious pain.

“Sartell is a 5A football team that has some talented kids who can do some good things and they’re pretty physical,” Klaphake said. “It’s hard to win games in our section. I felt coming into the game it would be a tight one, and it was. That’s sport.”

Storm junior lineman Nolan Robish took a blow to the head the team’s second extra point attempt and was carried off on a stretcher after being immobilized. He was seen moving his hands and feet while receiving treatment from a fast-responding medical staff.

Sartell    0    7    0    8 – 15
SRR    0    14    0    0 – 14

First quarter: No scoring: Second quarter: SRR – Patterson 1 run (Rudnick kick). SRR – Patterson 1 run (Rudnick kick). Sar – Tavale 22 pass from Hentges (Tyler Phelps-Hemmesch kick). Third quarter: No scoring. Fourth quarter: Sar – Knutson 52 pass from Hentges (Dominic Larson pass from Hentges).

This story will be updated with additional comments/stats Monday.



Sauk Rapids-Rice sophomore Hudson Omoke carries the ball after making a catch Saturday at Sauk Rapids-Rice Middle School Stadium. The Storm lost to Sartell, 15-14, in the Section 8AAAAA semifinals.