Last play heartbreak: DGF Rebels come up short in first Prep Bowl as New London-Spicer scores on last play
The Rebels led until the final seconds of the Prep Bowl championship game on Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
MINNEAPOLIS — One point and the final play of the game separated the Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton Rebels from the Class AAA championship in their first Prep Bowl appearance Saturday afternoon.
On the last play of the game, the New London-Spicer Wildcats lined up at the DGF 47-yard line. Blake Schultz dropped back then lobbed a pass to Grant Paffrath, who was wrapped up by DGF’s Brody Friend at the 14. Before he could be tackled, though, Paffrath lateraled the ball to Brycen Christensen who scurried in the last 14 yards for the score.
The score put the Wildcats ahead 27-26 as time expired.
Saturday night, the play — which was reminiscent of Randy Moss' behind the back lateral to Moe Williams in 2003 — topped Sports Center's Top 10 with the Minnesota Vikings, among others, tweeting about it.
Just seconds earlier, a DGF victory was all but locked up.
With 24 seconds left, Jordan Summers ran for a touchdown from 19 yards out to give the Rebels a 26-21 lead. It was also Summers who took down Christensen on the final play but not before Christensen crossed the plane to score.
“I was a safety back and I saw (Paffrath) getting tackled,” Summers said. “So, I went to go help tackle him and saw him flip it back. I ended up being the one who couldn't get there on the last play and just missed it.”
It was only the second time Summers had been on the field since the semifinals two weeks ago. In that game, Summers hurt his leg and was out of practice until Friday.
Despite two weeks of doctor appointments, physical therapy and time away from the field, Summers ended the game with 169 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries.
The senior running back was able to put the loss into perspective in the grand scheme of life following the game.
“It’s hard but it’s a part of life. You’re going to lose sometimes,” he said. “It’s hard to choke down because you feel like you have it and you just don’t at the end.”
In addition to his fourth quarter score, Summers found the end zone on DGF’s opening offensive drive from 12 yards out.
The Rebels had two more touchdowns in the game. One came on quarterback Owen Leach's 2-yard push into the end zone on the opening play of the fourth quarter. The other was much more creative.
To tie it up in the second quarter, DGF ran a reverse pitch pass play. Leach handed the ball off to Summers, who ran left before tossing the ball to Caleb Johnson, who was running across the backfield to the right. Johnson then passed to a wide-open Leach along the right hash for the touchdown.
Leach ended the day with 76 passing yards on two completions while Johnson was 1 of 1 passing with his role in the "Philly Special"-esque play.
Drew Sheeley led the team in receiving, hauling in the two Leach completions for the 76 yards.
Rebels coach Anthony Soderberg gave the Wildcats credit for making one last play when it counted most.
“Whether that was a designed play or something that just kind of happened, as long as there’s time on the clock, the ball can go in the end zone and it did,” Soderberg said. “Hats off to them and congrats to them, too.”
Soderberg had said what pleased coaches most in their playoff run was getting the DGF players as many games as possible. He was happy to have one more game with this group of Rebels. In this case, that one more game was the Rebels' first appearance at the Prep Bowl. It was an experience that taught the team lessons on several fronts.
“It’s another game with them. Plain and simple,” he said. “That’s what we fight for and that’s what we strive for. A lot of good, fun experiences happened and a lot of life lessons happened, too.
“There’s much bigger things these kids will be accomplishing and responsible for in their lives. Sometimes, you have to learn to get up. Sometimes you’re the winner and sometimes you’re not.”
New London’s Paffrath and Christensen both admitted that the winning play was a spur of the moment reaction, with Christensen calling out Paffrath’s name to get his attention before the lateral.
Wildcats’ coach Chad Gustafson summed up the win in two words.
“Unbelievable game,” he said.
“The one thing we talk about all year, especially on 2-point plays, is don't get tackled with the ball,” he said. “(Paffrath) is a heads-up, smart kid. You’re not going to get tackled on the 5-yard line to end the state tournament. If the ball ends on the turf, the ball ends on the turf.”
The Rebels end the season 12-1 record and will have one more gathering to hand in pads. Soderberg — who Summers called the best coach he could have ever asked for — summed up the 2022 Rebels season.
“These kids are so great to work with,” he said. “It’s been a blast.”