Dassel-Cokato led for 9 minutes, 38 seconds. It was the final 2:38 that made the difference. The Chargers forced Cannon Falls to punt, but took over inside their own 10-yard line with a little over 6 minutes remaining in the game.
One more stop was needed by the Bomber defense.
Both teams relied heavily on the run with just a handful passes combined between the two. The Chargers ran the ball effectively on its final drive that started inside the 10-yard line. Running no-huddle, the Chargers scored the go-ahead touchdown on a quarterback keeper up the middle by Sanders Asplin. Breaking a tackle or two along the way, Asplin gave the Chargers a 26-22 lead. Yet with 2:38 remaining there was enough time for the Bombers to answer back.
Cannon Falls head coach Dan Meyers said after winning the Section 4AAA title, he’s never felt the Bombers were out of any game. He felt the same way as the drive began.
Trenton Matthies led the Bombers down field with a few powerful carries up the middle. The Bombers continued to gain chunks of yards, getting to the Charger 26-yard line. Jack Dommeyer was unable to complete a pass on four straight downs, resulting in a turnover.
The fourth-down incompletion resulted in a 26-22 win for Dassel-Cokato in a Class AAA quarterfinal on Saturday at Burnsville High School.
“It was two teams who were so evenly matched, it was a back-and-forth game,” Meyers said. “Obviously it's a heart-breaker to lose like that. … If we could have caught one of those passes, we'd be celebrating right now. That's a tough pill to swallow."
Fourth down was a big turning point for both teams. The Bombers went for it on fourth down on three of its final four drives. All were unsuccessful.
“If it goes your way, you look back and say it was a great call and if it doesn't go your way, then you regret it,” Meyers said. “There's a couple times we went for it on fourth down and didn't convert. That's just part of our style and playing aggressively. I'm not sure that those were the game-changing plays.”
As for the plays that changed the course of the game, Meyers said the missed tackles on Asplin and missed sack opportunities cost the Bombers.
“There were a couple of big runs that they had in the second half where we had a chance to tackle them and just couldn't bring that quarterback down,” Meyers said.
After the Chargers scored in three plays to start the game, the Bombers later tied it at 7-7 with a 1-yard run by Marcus Banks.
The Bombers broke the tie in the second quarter after a four-and-out followed by another lengthy drive that ended in a 1-yard quarterback sneak by Dommeyer.
The Chargers answered 2:30 later with a 1-yard run of their own by Josh DeBoer, but was unsuccessful on the two-point conversion.
The second quarter came to an end with a Bomber fumble followed by a Charger punt. At the half, the Bombers led 15-13.
Leading by two-points, the feeling was the Bombers were in control. They had out-gained the Chargers 205-137 in the first half. Matthies had 119 yards on 17 carries and the Bombers were moving the ball despite only passing once for 27 yards.
Only two plays in the first half didn’t result in positive yards for the Bombers — a false start and the fumble.
Less than 4 minutes into the second half, the Bombers went ahead 22-13 on Dommeyer’s second 1-yard quarterback sneak.
Asplin then willed his Chargers to the win. He broke what seemed like three sack attempts then followed up with a 44-yard keeper to cut the Bomber lead to 22-19 with 5:35 left in the third.
Asplin later scored the go-ahead touchdown on a similar play.
Cannon Falls ended the season 8-2 overall. Matthies ended with 233 yards on a season-high 31 carries. Banks added 55 yards on 15 carries. Dommeyer ran for 27 yards and passed for 35.
Meyers said his team has a lot to be proud of despite the loss.
“When we think back on the season there's going to be so many great moments,” Meyers said. “Beating Lourdes for the first time in a long time. Winning the section and going to state. Lots of things to celebrate, but this one is going to sting for a while.”