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In Lakeville, it’s North vs. South — and all the town is abuzz

By By JACE FREDERICK | jfrederick@pioneerpress.com | Pioneer Press, 11/15/18, 10:15PM CST

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The listed population of Lakeville is 63,748, meaning U.S. Bank Stadium — capacity 66,655 — is just big enough to fit the town. 

It just might have to Friday night.

The Lakeville North-Lakeville South Class 6A state football semifinal showdown at the Vikings’ stadium figures to be well-attended. 

“If someone is going to commit a crime (in Lakeville), Friday night is the time,” North coach Brian Vossen joked. “Everyone will be gone. Kind of that mentality of last person out, turn the lights off. I hope it’s like that, because that’d be great. What kid doesn’t want to play in front of their whole community? How exciting.” 

An inter-city state tournament showdown is impossible in most sports, where teams within the same geographic region meet up in sectional playoffs. But Class 6A football’s switch to a seeded, 32-team bracket a few years ago opened up this possibility. 

Still, such an event looked unlikely — particularly this season. 

That Lakeville North is here is no surprise. The Panthers have established themselves as one of the state’s perennial powers via consistent successful seasons. This year’s team may be Vossen’s best. Lakeville North entered the postseason as the state’s top-ranked team.

Lakeville South did not. 

The Cougars started with a 1-5 record that included a 28-3 loss to Lakeville North in late September. But a stout defense and a sudden mastery of their new Straight-T offense sparked the Cougars on a five-game winning streak, including three straight playoff upsets.

“We feel like a totally different team,” South senior running back Jared Stewart said. 

Still, the Panthers will be heavy favorites. They’ve dominated this rivalry for years, and the expectation of many is they’ll do the same in the state semis. The Cougars hope to flip the script. 

“That’s the goal,” South coach Tyler Krebs said. “They’re a program that’s been there for the last few years, and we’re a program that’s trying to get there. At some point, you have to be able to take that next step, and that’s why you hope for opportunities like this. 

“If it happens on Friday night, that’s great. If it doesn’t we’ll keep working toward it.” 

Krebs and Vossen are Lakeville grads who played under legendary coach Larry Thompson. That, Thompson said, is the best part of this whole ordeal. 

“It’s really good to see now that both of them are really competitive teams and it’s really exciting for our community,” Thompson said. ““It really warms my heart that those two guys have been so successful.” 

It’s two Lakeville teams, coached by Lakeville guys with many Lakeville assistants, set to take center stage in an NFL stadium. Vossen said this matchup is all anyone wants to talk to him about, his students included. 

“Obviously, there’s a buzz. People are excited,” he said. “I’m basically just off social media, so I don’t have to see it. I don’t mind being on social media, but right now all that’s on there is North-South stuff.”

Thompson coached Lakeville South after Lakeville High School was split into two schools in 2005. He still coaches at Lakeville South and has a grandson playing for the Cougars. So sure, he’ll be happy if Lakeville South scores the upset Friday, but if it doesn’t, he’ll be happy for his friends at Lakeville North. 

“All I can say,” Thompson said, “is go Lakeville.” 

“It’s going to be a nice night,” he added. “Wow, U.S. Bank Stadium, it really can’t get much better for putting the spotlight on Lakeville football.”