Fourth time's the charm: Barnesville beats Chatfield, wins first state title in fourth Prep Bowl appearance
Four touchdowns from Tate Inniger and four interceptions by the Barnesville defense propelled the Trojans to a perfect season and a state championship on Friday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
MINNEAPOLIS — An offense anchored by four touchdowns from Tate Inniger and a defense that recorded five total turnovers propelled the Barnesville Trojans to their first state football title Friday afternoon in the Prep Bowl at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
Gannon Bolgrean's interception with 3:29 left in the game sealed the game and the Trojans ran the clock down from there to win 35-20 and carry off the Class AA trophy.
The state championship is the first for the Trojans in their fourth appearance in the title game.
No matter how many championships may lie in the future for the school, the 2022 Barneville Trojans will always have the claim to being the first.
“Just to say that you finally did it, that you’re the best, on this day we were the best in our class (is huge),” said Trojans head coach Bryan Strand. “I think it’s huge for this town and huge for these kids. … No matter what goes on, you were part of that. Whatever your role was, you’re part of history for that town. These guys will remember this forever. It’s pretty cool.”
Dawson Gregg scored the first Trojans’ touchdown, powering his way in from 2 yards out with 2:41 left in the first quarter
The remaining four came courtesy of Tate Inniger. He caught three scoring passes from Zach Bredman — one shy of tying the Prep Bowl record of four — then went under center as he was in motion to run one in up the middle.
On the play before to his rushing touchdown, Inniger almost had a passing touchdown, as well. Inniger and Wyatt Suter connected on the play with Suter ending up in the end zone. However, reviews showed Suter down at about the 1-yard line.
At the end of the day, Inniger — who was named the Barnesville teammate of the year — was more concerned with the final score and winning than his individual stats.
“What matters is the final score,” Inniger said. “The team really, we’ve just put in so much time. The stats and numbers are there and that’s cool and all but the only thing that matters is when the time runs out in the fourth quarter is that we’re ahead. That’s all I could really ask for. I wouldn’t put myself ahead of the team by any means.”
John Roller broke away for two 40-plus yard runs and led the Trojans run game with 103 yards on eight carries. The team had 304 total yards, with 235 rushing yards and 69 through the air.
On defense, the Trojans recorded four interceptions and a fumble recovery and turned those turnovers into 22 points.
Owen Riddle had two interceptions, one in the second quarter that he returned 49 yards and one in the third quarter that he returned 22 yards. Ethan Larson had pick in the first quarter and Bolgrean had the game-sealer in the fourth.
Bolgrean also finished the game as the Trojans' quarterback, replacing Zach Bredman, who left the game with an apparent shoulder injury.
Braeden Bredman converted a pair of 2-point conversions and forced the fumble that was recovered by a host of Barnesville players. He also led the team with seven total tackles while Connor Loeks and Jonny Robideau each were in on six stops.
Robideau was the only player on the Barnesville team to have the experience of playing in a Prep Bowl championship game. He was a starter on the Trojan offensive line as an eighth-grader.
From that eighth-grade season to now, Robideau always felt a state title was a possibility.
“These past five years, my life has just revolved around football,” Robideau said. “That first year, it was the first year Barnesville had been to a state championship in a while and it was like, this can be done. It's possible. I watched a great group of seniors lead us to that game and it was a close game. … Every year after that it’s just been ‘it’s there, we have to go take it’ and we got it.”
In the postgame press conference, Chatfield coach Jeff Johnson credited the Trojans for their performance.
“Overall, the two best teams played in the finals. That’s for sure,” Johnson said. “Barnesville, I have to give them a lot of credit. They have a very good football team. It's probably the best team they’ve had in school history and they deserve the championship. They earned it tonight.”
Sam Backer led the Gophers with 182 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He also threw a touchdown pass to Kailan Schott.
In addition to being Barnesville’s first state championship, the game served as revenge for the Trojan’s semifinal loss to Chatfield last season.
As part of the team’s final preparations, arrangements were made for them to have a video call with 1980 Team USA Hockey Captain Mike Eruzione from the ‘Miracle on Ice’ team upon arrival in Minneapolis.
“On the way here, I made (our players) watch ‘Miracle’ without telling them why,” Strand said. “He had some very good points. He said ‘enjoy the moment, enjoy the things that are in front of you. It’s the last time you’ll be a part of this team,’ and it’s true.
“These guys have put in so much time, they just deserve it. I am so proud of them.”