Chanhassen football playing in first state championship ever

We're just two days away from the start of Minnesota high school football state championship games at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The Prep Bowl Championships on Saturday will mark some firsts for Chanhassen High School football.

"This is our first time going to the state tournament and first time playing for a state championship in the 15 years [of this program]," said the team’s head coach, Cullen Nelson.

Nelson has been the head coach for five years. This moment is made even sweeter by knowing that the team he coached in 2020 was undefeated, but the players had to turn their equipment in early when school was shut down because of COVID.

"It's been a ride for these kids, and they looked up to that group. We've talked about how that team didn't get to finish what they invested in, and this group is," Nelson said.

And it's not just the team but the surrounding community that wants to see a Class 5A title for the Storm. For $5, community members are able to get a ride to and from the game at US Bank Stadium. Southwest Transit wrote on Facebook the demand was so high the transit agency decided to increase the number of buses it has running.

"I knew we had a chance to be really good. I knew we had a chance to go to the state tournament and maybe win our last game, but I didn't know that people would be this supportive and this into it, and it would be this big of a deal. And that's really cool," Nelson said.

As for the secret to getting this far, he said it's having players who really care about each other and aren't in it for themselves.

"I love when … we have a touchdown, I watch the film and see the guys on the sidelines just as excited as guys on the field, and that's kind of what they've been about," he said.

Chanhassen will play St. Thomas Academy on Saturday. The community will send off the team at Chanhassen High School at 1:30 p.m. for a 4 p.m. game.

Some other Metro-area schools will also play in the championships, including Edina and Centennial High School in Circle Pines.