The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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October 15, 2013

Belle Plaine has shot at solo MRC title, No. 1 seed

BELLE PLAINE — With a good group of players returning this season, Belle Plaine football coach Justin Johnston knew he'd have a good team.

But undefeated? Ranked No. 1 in Class AAA? Minnesota River Conference champions?

"They've exceeded my expectations," Johnston said.

Belle Plaine (7-0) takes on Tri-City United (6-1) in the regular-season finale tonight at Montgomery. The Tigers have already clinched a share of the conference championship but would prefer not to share it with TCU. The Tigers have won only three MRC titles in the last 15 years, with other championships in 1998 and 2009.

Belle Plaine moved up to No. 1 in The Associated Press' Class AAA poll three weeks ago, and while that doesn't guarantee anything, it's been something for the communtiy to celebrate.

"It's been really exciting for the kids," Johnston said. "They take a lot of pride in that."

The Tigers' success has started with sohomore quarterback Luke Narveson. He started the final three games of last season, and so far this season, he's completed 78 of 146 passes for 1,526 yards with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. He's also Belle Plaine's leading rusher with 403 yards and seven scores.

Receiver Derek Dahlke is the leading receiver with 41 catches for 565 yards and two scores. Right tackle Gavin Dauwalter, at 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds, is the short-yardage tailback, having scored eight touchdowns in 16 carries.

"This is the game we've had our eye on the last couple weeks," Johnston said. "The kids have done a nice job of staying focused. It should be a fun one."

Belle Plaine may need to win to hold on to the No. 1 seed in Section 3AAA.

Pound the rock

Spencer Davies split out and come in motion through the backfield. The direct snap went to the quarterback, who handed it quickly to Davies for a sweep.

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