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After a successful regular season where Apple Valley finished with a 7-1 record, the Eagles turned their attention to making a successful playoff run.
The Eagles received the number one seed in the Section 3 Class 5A, meaning that a first-round bye would automatically advance the team to the second round of the playoffs.
In that second-round matchup, the Eagles played host to the Hastings Raiders. These two teams had met earlier in regular season play, with the Eagles coming out on top, 38-14.
The second meeting of these two teams would turn out to be very similar to the first.
Apple Valley dominated on both sides of the ball, with the entire team coming together to dispatch of the Raiders. Senior starting running back, linebacker, and team captain Kellan McKeag scored three rushing touchdowns and senior wide receiver Nathan Macho caught a touchdown pass in the first half to help create a large lead going into halftime, 28-7.
The Eagles maintained their dominance into the second half, with senior quarterback Tyler Cardella rushing for a touchdown, followed by another touchdown pass to Nathan Macho and a touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Luke Martens.
A last-minute touchdown run by senior backup quarterback Tre Reinertson would end the game, with the final score of the rematch ending up to be 56-13 in favor of Apple Valley.
A major outcome of this game besides the win was an injury to senior Patrick Kelehan. Kelehan acted as a kickoff returner, a running back, and the punter for the Eagles. Suffering a broken collarbone will keep Patrick from participating in the rest of the postseason, though he will remain on the sidelines to support the Eagles in their efforts to become state champions.
After the win against Hastings, the Eagles had to prepare to face their next opponent — the Saint Thomas Academy Cadets.
This game would also turn out to be a rematch for the Eagles. In the first meeting, the Eagles played one of their most competitive games of the season. A defensive battle, the final score of the first game was an Eagles win, 14-0.
The rematch however, was one-sided the entire game.
The Eagles scored early and often behind their dominant offensive line where 4 out of the 5 starters are seniors. Senior wide receiver Trey Kocher scored the opening points of the game on a 7 yard rushing touchdown.
Quarterback Tyler Cardella followed that up with a 54 yard dash into the endzone to help widen the lead to 14-0.
On the next Apple Valley drive, Junior running back and defensive back Damien Swanson ran for a 21 yard touchdown to increase the score to 21-0 a minute into the second quarter.
Rushing touchdowns by Tyler Cardella and Kellan McKeag would extend the Eagles’ lead to 35-0 at halftime.
The Eagles were able to head into the locker room at half this far ahead because of their stout defensive performance.
Apple Valley only allowed 2 first downs in the first half and forced three turnovers. Senior defensive lineman Spencer Rolland recovered a fumble, junior linebacker Tony Anger intercepted a pass, and senior defensive back Josh Arnold intercepted a pass to end the first half.
The Eagles’ defense maintained their dominance throughout the rest of the game, allowing Saint Thomas to only score one touchdown while forcing yet another turnover on a fumble that was recovered by Josh Arnold.
Trey Kocher ran for another touchdown in the second half, and the Eagles maintained that score until the final whistle blew, with Apple Valley walking away victorious, 42-7.
Defeating Saint Thomas made the Eagles Section 3 Class 5A champions, advancing them into the state tournament.
Senior captain Kellan McKeag said about the tournament, “We’re looking forward to trying to prove people wrong. We want to show off our rockstar mentality on the big stage.”
The Eagles play Mankato West High School (10-1) this Saturday at 6:00 at Shakopee West Junior High School.
If the Eagles win on Saturday, they will advance to the state semifinals which will take place at U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis, the home of the Minnesota Vikings.