Coaches working for free. A kicker who is legally blind in one eye after beating cancer. An offensive line with three guys tipping the scales at 165 pounds. A team rallying around a coach who lost his father earlier this year.
Every team in this weekend's Prep Bowl at U.S. Bank Stadium has a story...
The coaching staff has stayed together despite five of them being volunteers and six others splitting a "tiny salary," head coach Jeff Ferguson told Go MN Sports. Ferguson says most coaches "literally lose money during the season."
Eden Prairie Eagles
This is the third straight year the Eagles are playing the Eagles in the Prep Bowl. Eden Prairie won 28-27 in 2014, holding off Totino's attempt to win the game on a two-point conversion with 1:39 left in the game. Totino-Grace got its revenge with a 27-13 win in the 2015, and now this year's game is the second meeting this season between the two after Totino-Grace beat Eden Prairie 17-14 way back in Week 1.
Elk River Elks
Kicker Austin Solors beat cancer and is blind in one eye. Doctors found Rhabdomyosarcoma behind his right eye when he was 5 years old. Ninety percent of the cancer was removed with surgery and the other 10 percent through chemotherapy. He became legally blind in that eye when he was just 7 years old.
Spring Lake Park Panthers
During a team meeting last spring, the coaching staff played a highlight video with news clips from the school's last state championship 25 years ago. They've been trying to apply things from that video to this year's team. A couple of players from that title team spoke to the current players last week, and former coach Bob Jackson talked to the team on Wednesday.
They also have the Ojile twins. Josh, a left tackle, and Zach, a quarterback. Zach is a Mr. Football candidate this season.
They have a linebacker named Brody Hogeson. He had 16 tackles in the state semifinals against Rocori and he has a whopping 186 tackles on the season, according to the Winona Daily News.
Benilde-St. Margaret's Red Knights
On the field they are led by star running back Ricky Floyd and offensive lineman/Harvard recruit Eric Wilson. Off the field they do anything and everything to stay united. Last year they all shaved their heads. This year they all went to Fantastic Sam's and bleached their hair. KSTP has more on the the Red Knights.
Rochester Lourdes Eagles
We'll let head coach Mike Kesler tell the story:
"My dad passed away earlier in the season, he was a huge football guy. He actually was the captain of the 1953 Lourdes team. I am the youngest of six kids who all went to Lourdes. The whole team came to my dad's funeral dressed in black with purple ties. The support from the Lourdes Community has been amazing."
St. Croix Lutheran Crusaders
The Crusaders are one win away from a third state title in six years and they're doing it this year with a three-headed rushing attack and three offensive linemen listed at 165 pounds. Per the Pioneer Press, Mike Stern has rushed for 1,486 yards this season, Daniel Rust for 1,015 and Isaac Tietz has 812.
We reached out to Caledonia head coach Carl Fruechte and asked him to tell us something interesting other than the fact that they've won six state championships since 2005. His response is classic: "lol I guess we are pretty boring sorry!"
Actually, Caledonia's quarterback is fantastic. Owen King is just a junior and he's already thrown for 2,556 yards, 43 touchdowns and only 4 intereptions this season. The South Dakota State commit threw for 44 touchdowns and 4 interceptions as a sophomore last season.
Eden Valley-Watkins Eagles
The Golden Gophers probably owe EVW assistant coach Mike Strohmeier a thank you. Strohmeier was a coach for 10 years at community colleges in Iowa and in 2012 he won a national championship at Iowa Western. He recruited Cody Poock, Ace Rodgers and Merrick Jackson to Iowa Western. All three now play for the Gophers.
How's that for an eye for talent?
Minneapolis North Polars
A year after losing star QB Tyler Johnson to the Gophers, the Polars are back in the Class 1A Prep Bowl. Last year they lost to Minneota. This year they play a team they are more familiar with in basketball: Rushford-Peterson. Rushford beat the Polars in a highly anticipated game back in Jan., 2015 and went on to win the state title. North got revenge a year later en route to a state championship.
There's a lot of ticked off people in southeastern Minnesota who think running back Noah Carlson should have been one of the 10 Mr. Football finalists. Carlson has wreaked havoc on the opposition, rushing for 2,624 yards and 46 total touchdowns despite sitting out the second half of four games this season, according to the Winona Daily News.
Oh, and he plays safety on defense.
Grand Meadow Superlarks
Grand Meadow is riding a 49-game winning streak. It's the third longest in Minnesota history and tied for the third longest active streak in the country. Since joining the varsity team the current members of the senior class have won 54 games and lost only one. They haven't lost a home game since 2010.
Quarterback Carter Kopet has 128 career touchdown passes, which is 27 more than the old state record before he smashed it this season.
Just as interesting is that this is the first time Cleveland has made it as far as the state semifinals in any sport. The football team reached the state tournament in 2007 and 2015, only to lose in the first round both times. No other Cleveland team has ever reached the state tournament.