Minneota defeated Springfield 38-21 in the Class 1A championship game to kick off the 2022 Prep Bowl Friday, a testament to all the things coaches revere: commitment, dedication, hard work, sacrifice.
It would be unfair to deny recognition to the players who took the U.S. Bank Stadium field for Minneota, dominating Springfield in the second half with four long, time-consuming drives that ended up in the end zone. But to many in this football-mad western Minnesota hamlet a stone's throw from the South Dakota border, the Vikings' eighth state championship took root nearly 40 years ago.
Gerhard Meidt was the coach who put Minneota on the map, leading the Vikings to five straight state tournament appearances, three ending with Class C championships (1987, '88 and '89).
Excellence has since become the expectation in Minneota. Many of the players' older brothers or fathers have experienced the success. The motivation for some is solidifying their place in family hierarchy.
"It's always been that I've been my brother's shadow," said Vikings quarterback Isaac Pohlen, whose older brother Alex was a part of three state championships in four years between 2013 and 2017. "He's got three state titles. My dad lost one in 1993. It feels nice to finally win one."
Coach Chad Johnston, who recorded his 200th career victory Friday, knows this pattern.
"Being a younger brother to a star player is never an easy thing," he said. "Either they've got a brother or a father [who played]. They've got a history of people who have had this experience before. Now they get to treasure it themselves."
The Vikings lost to Mayer Lutheran in the Class 1A championship game in 2021, a memory that had faded little in 12 months.
"We were determined that we weren't going to let it happen again," said Minneota running back/defensive back Zach Fier, who ran for 124 yards and scored on a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs in the second half.