Minneapolis proved yet again on Friday night that it could win in a defensive struggle.
Despite a great test from a young Ellsworth team, Minneapolis found a way to win on the road in an 18-12 victory in the regular season finale.
The victory marks the third this season for the Lions where they scored less than 20 points. All three of those wins were also in one-score games.
The two teams combined for six turnovers, which helped add to the back-and-forth nature of the game.
Minneapolis (4-4 overall; 3-2 district; 2-2 NCAA) started the scoring six minutes into the game, on a nine-yard passing touchdown from Gabe Hueser to Colby Rice.
Ellsworth (1-7; 0-5; 1-4) answered back a few minutes later with a Will Cravens one-yard score on a QB sneak.
In the second quarter, the Lions retook the lead, as senior fullback Weston Schrader plowed into the end zone from one yard out. But, just like the first time Minneapolis had a lead, Ellsworth tied the game back up on a Cravens to Dayton Davis seven-yard passing touchdown with 30 seconds left in the first half.
The score was tied 12-12 at the break.
It would stay that way throughout the third frame. Minneapolis had the ball in the redzone twice in the quarter, but the Lions turned it over on downs once and lost a fumble the other time.
With nine minutes left in the fourth quarter in a tie ballgame, Ellsworth went for it on a 4th down and 1 from its own 17-yard line. The Minneapolis defense held strong, forcing a turnover on downs deep in Bearcat territory.
A few plays later, Tucker Smith scored his first touchdown of the season on a three-yard plunge. That score gave Minneapolis the 18-12 lead, and it held that way until the end.
Minneapolis has now won back-to-back games against Ellsworth. Schrader led the Lions statistically, 17 carries for 94 yards and a touchdown. Hueser threw for 69 yards and a touchdown, but he also threw one interception.
Smith was chosen as the Nex-Tech Wireless Player of the Game. The junior scored the game-winning touchdown and also recovered a fumble on defense.
Sophomore wide receiver Ryan Parks had the H&R Block of the game. Parks was blocking out in front of Colby Rice on a pass play for a first down that sealed the game for the Lions.
Minneapolis now readies itself for the playoffs. The Lions will head to Hays to take on Thomas More Prep next Friday in the first round of the 2A playoffs. Minneapolis will be looking for its first playoff win since 2014. The game will be broadcasted as always on 92.7 The New Zoo in the Salina/Minneapolis area, and it will stream online on ksal.com.