- Associated Press - Saturday, November 26, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - They’ve been playing football for 125 years at Elk River High School.

The program’s greatest moment occurred Saturday.

Nicholas Rice ran for 242 yards and three touchdowns, and the Elks beat Spring Lake Park 42-14 to win the Class 5A state football championship at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Elk River’s best previous finish was second in 1990.

“No one really believed in us that we could come this far, except ourselves,” said Sam Gibas, who ran for 105 yards. “It’s cool to see how it all played out.”

Operating its wing-T offense with precision, Elk River (13-0) rushed for 446 yards. The Elks did not attempt a pass.

Gibas scored from 60 yards out in the first quarter. The run came four plays after Spring Lake Park had a 73-yard run called back on a penalty.

“When Sam makes a big play, he is our leader,” said Elk River coach Steve Hamilton. “We feed off of him.”

Elk River was 5-5 last year.

“We knew we could do it, but a lot of people didn’t think we could,” Rice said. “We didn’t really have a super-close game.”

Elk River averaged 44.92 points per game, outscoring opponents 584-158, and rushing for an average of 448.4 yards. It was well on its way with a 27-0 halftime lead.

The Panthers had allowed more than that many points in two previous games.

“Holy trap,” said Spring Lake Park coach Jeff Schlieff. “If their offensive line wasn’t so good it’s a little easier to see it coming. … It’s better than your average trap the way those guys carry out the fakes.”

Sherrod Kpahn scored on a 50-yard run early in the second quarter before Rice had 33- and 54-yard scores. The Elks had 285 yards rushing in the first half.

Rice added a 50-yard touchdown in the third quarter. and Noah Wegge scored on a 30-yard quarterback keeper in the fourth.

Spring Lake Park (12-1) got short rushing touchdowns from Nick Robinson and Zachary Ojile. Mark Buley ran for 114 yards.

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