A look back at all 44 southeastern Minnesota state title teams since the Pigskin Preview's inception

Sep. 1—(Editor's note: This article is part of the 2023 Pigskin Preview, which will appear in the Saturday, Sept. 2, Post Bulletin print edition. A full list of articles that will appear on this week is at the bottom of this article.)

Forty-four teams from southeastern Minnesota have won state football championships since the first Pigskin Preview came out in 1974. Here's a look at those teams and championship games:

CLASS AA: Rochester John Marshall 41, Bloomington Jefferson 19. Kent Kitzmann ran for 195 yards on 40 carries and had a whopping six total touchdowns as the Rockets won their second straight state title. Kitzmann scored on runs of 1, 3, 4, 6 and 10 yards, and he caught an 8-yard TD pass. He also had an interception.

CLASS B: Caledonia 38, Sartell 7. Long before the modern-day Carl Fruechte-led dynasty developed in Caledonia, the Warriors had to start somewhere. This was their first state championship, coming two years after losing in their first-ever state title-game appearance.

CLASS A: Rochester Lourdes 22, Apple Valley 6. In a game played before more than 5,000 fans at John Marshall Stadium, Lourdes won the first of its five state championships. The Eagles wouldn't get another until 2010, the start of a run of four titles in eight years.

CLASS C: Southland 28, Bird Island-Lake Lillian 0. The Rebels completed a perfect season, using short touchdown runs from Neal Kosberg and Todd Linaman en route to shutting out Bird Island-LL. According to archives, the game was scoreless at halftime, but Southland switched to a power-I running formation, as opposed to its usual wishbone-T. The result was two TDs in the third quarter and two in the fourth.

CLASS C: Harmony 20, Glyndon-Felton 14. In a game that was a nail-biter throughout, Harmony quarterback Tim Burkholder connected with Chris Martin for a 22-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to help the Cardinals pull out the victory. It was a decade before a southeastern Minnesota team would win another state title.

CLASS B: Triton 40, Becker 21. Triton used a record-breaking day from quarterback Kirk Midthun and Judge Gissler to race past the Bulldogs. Midthun threw for 309 yards and a Prep Bowl-record six touchdowns. Gissler was on the receiving end for 171 of those yards and four touchdowns. Both were Prep Bowl marks. Becker had a 13-12 lead at the half before Triton outscored it 28-9 in the second half.

CLASS C: Chatfield 34, Red Lake Falls 14. Chatfield won the first of its five state titles — and the first in a run of three consecutive championships — by controlling the ball for more than 31 minutes in the game. The Gophers' defense shut down RLF running back Blaise Larson, who had rushed for more than 2,000 yards in the regular season.

CLASS B: Kingsland 22, Breckenridge 3. Trenton Heyland scored two touchdowns for the Knights, including one rushing and one on a 36-yard interception return, to play the hero in Kingsland's first-ever state championship.

CLASS C: Chatfield 12, Hawley 6. The Gophers won their second consecutive state title, shutting down Hawley's offense in one of the lowest-scoring Prep Bowl games ever. Luke Thieke scored both of Chatfield's TDs and Justin Harmening and Chris Scrabeck combined for a key sack in the closing seconds to seal the victory and the state title.

CLASS C: Chatfield 12, Hawley 7. In a near carbon copy of the 1995 title game, Chatfield and Hawley combined for fewer than 20 points, and the Gophers came out on top of a down-to-the-wire game. Justin Harmening ran for the winning touchdown as the No. 2-ranked Gophers won their 24th consecutive game by topping top-ranked Hawley.

CLASS AA: Triton 31, Otter Tail Central 12. Zak Midthun threw for two touchdowns and the Triton defense held Otter Tail Central to just 226 total yards as the Cobras won the second state championship in program history.

CLASS AAA: Plainview-Elgin-Millville 24, Glencoe-Silver Lake 21. PEM capped a memorable first trip to the state tournament by capping a perfect season with a nail-biting win in the Prep Bowl. The Bulldogs went 14-0 in 2002 and rallied past Glencoe-SL with a 42-yard TD pass by Mike Reiter to Michael Kasten. PEM was paced that season by workhorse running back Randy Spring, who rushed for 2,274 yards and scored 30 TDs.

CLASS AA: Kingsland 35, Norwood-Young America 7. Dustin Kimball scored three touchdowns and Chad Strike scored once as the Knights blew out NYA to win their second state championship in program history, joining the 1995 team. Brad Bernard led the Kingsland defense with six tackles and two interceptions, and the Knights scored on their first five possessions to steamroll NYA.

CLASS A: Rushford-Peterson 14, Mountain Lake/Butterfield-Odin 7. In just its fourth season as a co-op, Rushford-Peterson won its first state championship. The Trojans held off a tough Mountain Lake team after scoring twice in the first half to build a 14-0 lead. R-P quarterback Jacob Merchlewitz threw the game-winning TD pass, a 25-yard strike to Jason Hall.

CLASS A: Goodhue 20, Medford/El Shaddai 8. Goodhue's first state title came thanks to a swarming and relentless defense that forced six turnovers in the Prep Bowl victory at the Metrodome. Goodhue set the tone early, with a 66-yard touchdown pass from Brian Buck to Corey Ryan on the first play from scrimmage for an 8-0 lead. "Our defense is tough," Goodhue coach Clair Austin said that day. "They've been pretty salty all year long."

CLASS A: Rushford-Peterson 20, Otter Tail Central 6. R-P trailed 6-0 at halftime, with Otter Tail Central having held a 3-to-1 time of possession advantage in the first half. That all changed in the second half as senior Dan Boyum ran for 99 of his 142 yards in the final two quarters. Tyler Drinkall added three interceptions, returning one 41 yards for a touchdown.

CLASS AA: Triton 70, Luverne 21. In its sixth state tournament appearance, Triton not only captured its third championship, but the Cobras also set a single-game Prep Bowl record for scoring. In amassing 503 total yards, Triton shattered the previous Prep Bowl mark of 57 points set by Totino-Grace in 2003. Caleb Rissman had four touchdowns — two rushing, one receiving and one on a punt return. Jake Harmon added three rushing touchdowns as the Cobras led 35-0 after the first quarter, 47-7 at the half and 62-14 after three quarters.

CLASS A: Rushford-Peterson 20, New Ulm Cathedral 7. R-P used a quick early touchdown to build a lead that it didn't give up en route to another Class A state championship. Parker Brand led the Trojans with 14 carries for 101 yards, and he passed for one touchdown.

CLASS AA: Caledonia 14, Luverne 7. Caledonia won the second state title in program history and the first since 1976 by outlasting Luverne. This victory also started an unparalleled run of 10 state championships between 2007-2019, a true high school football dynasty. In the 2007 title game, Zach Gran carried the ball a whopping 30 times for 151 yards, while Kody Moore passed for two touchdowns.

CLASS A: Goodhue 28, Adrian 7. Goodhue set a Prep Bowl record with 26 first downs in the game, including 22 rushing first downs. The Wildcats won their second state championship thanks to a potent ground game led by Eric Ryan. He ran 28 times for 141 yards and three touchdowns. Micah Huneke was equally unstoppable, running 26 times for 167 yards and a touchdown.