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Men of Character
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2011 The Fighters by Jon Hersch
April 28, 2012Minnetonka Football
The “Fighters” of 2011 battled hard - no doubt they were one of Minnetonka’s best, finishing 8-3. They started the season strong - defeating defending Class 4A state champion, Totino-Grace, 28-0 at T-G, in game one. Grace opted to move up a class in 2011, and, in fact, finished the season in the semifinals of the Class 5A state tournament. The first points scored against the Skippers were not until the second half of game four - Edina. And they were 4-0 after those first four games. Everyone was looking forward to game 5 - the match-up with defending state champion, Wayzata.
However, all was not lost. “The Fighters” did just that - they fought back and went on another four-game winning streak, which took them to the Section Finals, again facing now once-beaten Eden Prairie. Tonka played probably their best game of the year under these difficult circumstances (still no Scott Benedict). Vinni Lettieri kicked a 31-yard field goal in the second quarter and Minnetonka’s defense mananged to make those 3 points hold up until late in the game. With the score 3-0, Eden Prairie was finally able to crack the physical Tonka defense on a 17-yard run with less than four minutes remaining, to go ahead 6-3.
As Coach Nelson told the exhausted players in a tight huddle following the game, “We invested a lot in this season and this game. We shot for the moon. Your effort tonight was awesome. The sting of the loss will eventually go away, and then we’ll remember the good times.” Beau Bates and Charles Webb led what might have been the most physical effort by a Minnetonka defense in Coach Nelson and defensive coach Clough’s ten-year tenure at Minnetonka. Opposing EP coach, Mike Grant, commended the Skippers after the game, saying “Minnetonka is a top-three team in the state. They play hard to the whistle and are as physical a team as we’ve played all season.”