In the end, it’s too much Totino

AV football team’s season ends with 42-14 playoff loss

Three Totino-Grace defenders swarm Apple Valley receiver Steven Wilson during a state Class 5A quarterfinal game Friday at Griffin Stadium in St. Paul. Photo by Mike Shaughnessy

Apple Valley was without its best two-way player for its biggest football game of the season. But even if Dom McDew-Stauffer had been available, it might not have changed the outcome.

Totino-Grace was just that good, Eagles coach Mike Fritze said.

“We had problems with their size up front more than anything else,” said Fritze, whose team lost to Totino-Grace 42-14 in a state Class 5A quarterfinal game Nov. 9 at Griffin Stadium in St. Paul. “If we had Dom in the game at linebacker, it’s a little different situation. I think it would have been a closer game.

“But Totino-Grace is a very good team. They have size and they’re balanced in the sense that they have someone who’s pretty good at every position.”

Without McDew-Stauffer, the team’s leading rusher and one of its leading tacklers, Apple Valley faced an imposing challenge. Totino-Grace (11-0) was good enough to reach the semifinals in the state large-school class last year before moving to Class 5A when the Minnesota State High School League tweaked the football playoff format.

Totino-Grace took a 14-0 lead in the first half, but Apple Valley responded with a touchdown pass from Tommy Singer to Dennis Austin. Apple Valley went into halftime trailing by seven points but with reason to be optimistic because it would get the second-half kickoff. But early in the third quarter, on an Apple Valley running play that appeared to be enough for a first down, a Totino-Grace defender caused a fumble with a hard hit and created a turnover.

“That play coming out of halftime was the key play of the game,” Fritze said.

Totino-Grace eventually converted the turnover into six points and scored three more times before Apple Valley’s Sean Tanberg caught a touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter.

“They had the ball so much it was hard for us to come back,” Fritze said. “The time of possession was something like three-to-one. We ran a decent amount of plays, but because we had to throw so much we didn’t have the ball for a lot of time.”

Singer passed for 235 yards against Totino-Grace and set an Apple Valley single-season record for passing yardage. Dustin Fronk set a school single-season record for receiving yardage.

And the Eagles, whose last winning season was in 2006, finished 8-3.

“Everybody wants to win, but you have to learn how to win,” Fritze said. “Until you see it on the field, it can be tough to expect to win. We’ve always had good kids, but this year we had some kids who were very talented and some seniors who were excellent leaders. I thought we played well all year long.”

Apple Valley reached the state football playoffs for the first time since 1993, when it won the state large-school championship. Fritze was an assistant coach on that team and took over as head coach a couple of years later.

Last week’s game against Totino-Grace was his last with the Eagles. Fritze is retiring from the Apple Valley football program after more than 30 years, including the last 18 as head coach. He will retire from his teaching position at Apple Valley High School on Nov. 30.

Fritze will be an assistant boys basketball coach at AVHS this winter and an assistant track and field coach in the spring. Next fall, he might be on some other football team’s sideline. Fritze said he’s interested in being an assistant coach at a local college next season.