October 30, 2011By Brian Vossen of Lakeville North Football
Lakeville split into 2 schools in 2005 and the rivalry began. The first match-up took place at Lakeville North between a senior heavy Panther Team and a junior and shophomore filled Cougar team. The game was close down to the wire, but the pressure of losing to a team of juniors proved to be to much for the Panthers and they suffered a devastating loss. It turned out the Cougars had a special group of juniors on that team. They went on to win quite a few more games and competed in the 4A state tournament.
This year will be remembered as one of the worst years for Panther football in its storied history. The tables had turned and the junior heavy Cougars were now senior heavy and filled with talent. The Panthers struggled throughout the season to compete with any of the teams in the Lake Conference. When they met it was ugly and the Panthers suffered a massive loss to South.
The Panthers rebuilt, refocused, and rededicated themselves in the off-season and entered the 2007 season with something to prove. Although, sadly the Cougars were not on their schedule. The only opportunity to play would have to come in the play-offs. Due to a tie in the regular season a card draw decided the seeding in the section and South won the top seed. The Panthers had to fight through two physcial Rochester John Marshall and Mayo football teams. In those games the Panthers only allowed 3 touchdowns and held "Super Mario" from Mayo to around 50 yards of rushing. But, the Panthers learned at the end of the game that the Cougars had lost to Owatonna so their match up would have to wait a year. The Panthers went on to beat Owatonna and advance to their first state tournament in Lakeville North History. They had gone from 1-8 to 8-4.
Again their would be no North South match-up until play-offs. And, yet again their records would tie at the end of the season. Nothing would keep the two teams from a shot at the rivalry. They met in the section championship. Winners go to state, losers go home. The game took place at Lakeville North and held up to it's expectation. They went back and forth with scoring the entire way, but in the end the Cougars won again. They danced off of the field in excitement while the Panthers stood by and watched.
The Panthers and Cougars were scheduled to meet week 3 of the regular season. North was sure this would be the year the rivalry was broken. Both players and coaches felt confident this would be the year. But, in week 3 Lakeville South beat the Panthers for a 4th time. Both teams ended their regular seasons with a lot of success. Both teams won their first round of the play-offs and were once again scheduled to meet in the play-offs. This time in the second round. The game was extremely close and regulation ended in a 0-0 tie. The Panthers captured their first victory of the rivalry in overtime on a run by Dajon Newell. They would go on to beat Owatonna and advance to the state tournament.
This was an interesting year for the Panthers. This class unlike any other only had 18 seniors. Credit to those 18 they were a tough and dedicated group. Nonetheless, the Panthers leaned heavily on their junior and sophomore class. The Panthers and Cougars met in week 6 of the regular season. Once again the Panthers kept the Cougars out of the endzone. Only this time they were able to score 14 in regulation and one a hard fought game 14-3 to claim their second victory of the rivalry. The Panthers finished 2nd in the conference with their young team. Play-offs game and, once again they met in the 2nd round. This time the Cougar running game proved to be too much for the Panthers and they lost. Cougars won the next week and advanced to the state tournament.
The Panthers entered the game as underdogs despite their 5-0 conference record and big wins over Rosemount, Eastview, and Edina. The cross town quarterbacks were main story throughout the week. Trey Heid, the unknown QB from North had quietly put up the highests QB numbers int he state of MN. Mitch Leidner, the well known Gopher recruit, had also started the year off with impressive numbers. Not only would this decide who the better team was, but who the better QB was. Thirty mile an hour winds threatened to change the game plan for both teams. But, both teams came out throwing. It was tight in the 1st half, but the Panthers dominated the 3rd quarter with the wind in their face and won 30-6. As both teams left the field, the players and coaches said, "See you in a few weeks." Week 2 of the section play-offs came and the Panthers and Cougars were scheduled for a rematch. Panthers had improved to an 8-0 record, while the Cougars held onto a 7-2 record. South came out early and took over the 1st half. Leidner completed 11 out of 11 passes, while the Panthers were held to 2 Trey Heid field goals. But, once again the 2nd half belonged to the Panthers. The 3rd quarter started with the Panthers down 14-6, but that changed quickly as the offense and defense lit a fire in the 2nd half. Panthers scored 2 Touchdowns and kicked another field goal. The Cougars were held to 0 in the 2nd half and the Panthers captured their second victory over the cross town rivals. Trey Heid answered any remaining questions about his skills throwing for 150 yards and a TD and Rushing for over 100 yards. Randy Shaver referred to him after the game as the "Metro Player of the Year".