His tackle with 5 seconds remaining lifted the host Panthers past North Suburban Conference rival Chisago Lakes 20-13 on Friday night, Oct. 12, keeping the state's No. 2-ranked team in Class 5A undefeated.

That wasn't even his happiest moment of the game.

Late in the third quarter, the tension was high as Spring Lake Park (6-0, 5-0 North Suburban) found itself in an unfamiliar position -- playing in a close game, the score tied 13-13. In the team's previous six games, the Panthers had outscored opponents 221-50.

With the Wildcats punting, Dahl trotted back to his usual position to receive the kick. As the ball spiraled down to him he waved his hands, signaling fair catch, and then ... he dropped the ball.

"It hit me right on my stomach, went right through my hands, and on to the ground," Dahl said. "I knew what point in the game it was, and I guess I was really nervous."

Chisago Lakes (5-1, 4-1) recovered and looked poised to grab the opportunity and the lead. On the next play Joshua Parks ran for 13 yards to Spring Lake Park's 29-yard line. The Wildcats, who rushed for 211 yards on the night, were pushing the Panthers' back against the wall.

On the next play, they looked to pound it up the middle again, but this time the ball squirted loose. Just two plays after his muffed punt, Dahl accounted for his previous miscue.

"When I saw the fumble on the floor, I dove for it, and I felt so good. I've never felt so good in my life," Dahl said. "My teammates on the field told me to keep my head up and that something good will happen."

Chisago Lakes played strong red-zone defense, keeping Spring Lake Park out of the end zone on nine of 10 plays inside the 20-yard line. This achievement was made more noteworthy considering Panthers tailback Ejodamen Ejiya had surpassed 1,000 rushing yards for the season earlier in the game.

"They stuffed us; that was big," Spring Lake Park coach Jeff Schlieff said. "We were going to prove that we could jam it in, and we did."

The outcome remained on edge until Ejiya bolted in for a touchdown with 1:43 remaining in the fourth quarter.

"When he caught that pitch, the way he shot like a missile and lowered his shoulder, they could have 11 guys there -- he was getting in the end zone." Schlieff said.