The football game that everyone wanted to see last year finally happened on a cool, rainy night last Friday. Minneapolis North and St. Paul Central — two of the state’s top teams — finally squared off in a Twin City District matchup before a capacity crowd at James S. Griffin Stadium in St. Paul.
The build-up for the anticipated intercity matchup portrayed it as a showdown between TYLER JOHNSON, North’s dynamic quarterback, and Central signal caller SAM GUBBRUD. Both are among the state’s top all-around athletes (each stars for their respective basketball teams as well).
Johnson was his usual brilliant self, rushing for three scores and passing for another.
In the end, however, it was TRUMAN EMMING’S extra point kick — he would have four for the game — following a two-yard run by Gubbrud (who also passed for two more scores) that proved to be the difference in a thrilling 36-35 victory for Central.
Both teams came into the game undefeated (identical 4-0 records) with Central boasting a No. 9 Class 5A ranking while North was No. 2 in Class 1A.
Touchdown runs of six and 24 yards by Johnson — with a four-yard scoring run by XAVIER DAVIS sandwiched in between — put North in control with a 12-7 first-quarter lead.
In the second quarter, running back FON’TAE OBANNION scored on a two-yard run, but North answered with a nine-yard TD and 27-yard field goal by Johnson and KEVON MATHIAS respectively as North led 21-14 at halftime.
After intermission, Sam Gubbrud connected with his receiver and brother JON GUBBRUD twice on scoring passes of five and 50 yards — the Minutemen also added a safety — while AHZERIK RODGERS, in relief of Johnson (sidelined with cramps), connected with LAQUIENT TRAVIS from 49 yards out (PATRICK DEMPLEY caught a pass from Rodgers for the two-point conversion) to make it 29-29 at the end of three.
Dempley’s six-yard run put North up 35-29 with 1:31 left in the game.
Sam Gubbrud and Emmings performed their heroics in the game’s final seconds.
Central running and defensive back KYLON SAFFOLD had a great all-around game for Central.
Both teams, among the state’s best last season, would have met in the annual Twin City game, but both City Conferences discontinued the Minneapolis-St. Paul Interleague series after the 2012 season.
When the Minnesota State High School League disbanded conferences in favor of districts, it made it easier to schedule the game during the regular season. While the game was definitely worth the wait, former U of M football standout KEN FOXWORTH, who coached at Central during the 1980s, saw it as more than a football game.
“You had a rainy and stormy evening, but both communities showed up to support the youth,” he said. “It was about both communities [Central and North] cheering for one another. It was one of the best high school games I’ve ever seen.”
Mitchell Palmer McDonald welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Mitchell Palmer McDonald is a contributing columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.