The Star Tribune is celebrating 50 years of high school football state tournaments one day at a time for 50 days.
Two turnovers on one play brought home a state championship in 1979.
Columbia Heights end Dennis Smith was on defense when he nabbed a lateral in midair at the Richfield 23-yard line and scored on the final play of the first half in the Hylanders' 8-3 victory in a turnover-plagued Class AA championship game. Both teams had three turnovers in the first half and finished with four.
"We didn't do everything right, but we'll take it," Columbia Heights coach Ron Raveling said of the first and still only state championship for the Hylanders.
The decisive play started when Richfield defensive back Paul Mercer intercepted a Columbia Heights pass at the 20-yard line. He tried to lateral the ball to Shinya McHenry, but Smith stepped in between them to catch it and race into the end zone.
"Denny is a big-play kid," Raveling said. "That's all there is to it."
In other finals:
- In Class A, Rochester scored three first-half touchdowns, two on quarterback Dan Gray's 7- and 44-yard runs, to beat Apple Valley 22-6 in the final. It was the first of five titles for Rochester Lourdes.
- Jeff Schultz kicked a 24-yard field goal with 11 seconds remaining, giving Russell a 17-14 victory over Toivola-Meadowlands for the Nine-Man crown. Russell recovered a fumble at the Toivola-Meadowlands 14-yard line with 1 minute, 28 seconds remaining to set up the winning kick.
- Chris Muench and Bill Neubauer each ran for two scores and Barry Wohler returned an interception 65 yards for a touchdown as Bird Island-Lake Lillian cruised past Harmony 34-6 for the Class C championship. It was the first of back-to-back state titles for Bird Island-Lake Lillian.
State championship games
Class AA: Columbia Heights 8, Richfield 3
Class A: Rochester Lourdes 22, Apple Valley 6
Class B: Gaylord 15, Mahnomen 6
Class C: Bird Island-Lake Lillian 34, Harmony 6
Nine-Man: Russell 17, Toivola-Meadowlands 14