November 15, 2016
In football the Catholic term “Hail Mary” is used as a symbol that the ball being thrown in the same way a prayer is sent to heaven. Two catches. Two plays. The last two offensive plays of each half for the Huskies on Saturday can be defined by two words: never quit.
As the final seconds ticked off the clock in the first half, Quarterback Abe Havelka launched a ball 50 yards into the crisp fall sky. As the clock hit zero, receiver Jay Sullivan found himself behind three Apple Valley defenders, about ten yards from the end zone. Contrary to the crowd’s initial reaction (an appeared interception against the Huskies), the senior ripped the ball away from the hands of the defender and walked into the end zone regaining the lead, 14-7. The crowd erupted. “It was unreal, the guy just had the ball out there, so I just took it,” Sullivan said. Rising to their feet, Owatonna fans sent their Huskies into halftime with overwhelming support.
However, that is not even half the story. After surrendering the lead in the second half, allowing two Apple Valley touchdowns, the Huskies were down 21-14. With every reason to quit, the Huskies got back to work. Driving the field on offense, Owatonna punished the Eagle defense immensely on the ground- evening the score to 21 all on a fourth down pass to Junior Mitch Wiese inside the five yard line. Apple Valley answered the call on a long time consuming drive that left the Huskies down 24-21 with around a minute left in the game.
A birth into the Minnesota Class 5A State Tournament semi-final was on the line. To play at US Bank Stadium the following Friday, one team needed to be ahead as the clock hit 0:00. Behind a silent home crowd and a depressing blow to the sideline morale, the Owatonna offense locked arms and went back to work once again. Resiliently, as if the clock was turned back to the last play off the first half, the fans once remembered the magic they saw some 60 minutes previously.
It was 4th down, down three points with under 30 seconds left. The 11 players on the field never doubted one another. Heaved into the air once again, a ball traveled 40 yards down the field in the direction of two Owatonna receivers and a cluster of Apple Valley defenders. Wide Receiver Alex Raichle said, “The route broke down. Abe (Havelka) scrambled out of the pocket and launched a bomb! I see it flying through the air and I go to make the play.”
As the ball began to fall, the crowd raised again. With 17 seconds left on the clock, the sideline referee threw his arms into the air for the final time that night. Caught. Touchdown. This time, it landed in Raichle’s hands. Owatonna 28, Apple Valley 24.
Cue the music, game over.