Owatonna stops Elk River’s vaunted running attack
He sports a bandana tied across his forehead. Eye black covers the parts of his face not taken up by a beard he’s been growing since his junior year. With a jersey torn at the armpit from battles in the trenches, Owatonna defensive tackle Chris Lewis looks every bit the part of hardscrabble nose tackle.
He plays like it, too.
Lewis and his Owatonna defensive mates did Friday what so many other teams have tried and failed to achieve: shut down Elk River’s vaunted power-T running game. The Huskies held the Elks, who had averaged more the 400 yards rushing per game, to 125 yards on the ground en route to a 39-8 victory in a Class 5A semifinal at U.S. Bank Stadium.
“Our defense has been really salty against the run all year,” Owatonna coach Jeff Williams said. “Elk River runs the ball better than anybody we’ve seen over the last three years. To be able to hold these guys to eight, that’s a major accomplishment.”
The job of Lewis, a 5-11, 281-pound senior who would fit in well in biker movies, was to clog the middle of the Elk River offensive line. He had 3½ tackles, including one for loss, and demanded and defeated the attention of numerous Elk River offensive linemen.
“Holding them to, what, 100-some yards, something like that?’’ Lewis said. “Feels pretty good.”
The teams had played in each of the two previous state tournaments, each winning once. The Huskies had a well-rehearsed recipe in place for stopping the Elks.
“It’s no secret, really,” said Elk River coach Steve Hamilton, whose vintage offense has started to catch on with other programs around the state. “Be really disciplined and be better than us up front. If your guys can win the one-on-one battles against us and you’re really super-disciplined, you’re going to beat us.”
The chief story line for Owatonna all season has been ultra-talented running back Jason Williamson, who had averaged more than 400 yards rushing per game in the postseason. Williamson, who plans to attend Minnesota, had 199 yards on the ground and five touchdowns, but this game belonged to the Owatonna defense.
“Getting a lead and putting them behind the eight-ball a little bit, making them have to make some decisions and getting them off schedule, our defense, led by Lewie, did a nice job of that,” Williams said.