MINNEAPOLIS — Barnesville coach Bryan Strand had a stroke in March. There were points where he thought he may die. A thought that never crossed his mind was not coaching high school football this season.
"It's part of who I am," Strand said. "It's part of my job. I think I'm a better principal because I'm a football coach. I got the respect of the kids and they listen very well and they're not going to be out there screwing around because they know they'll have to come and see me.
"I wasn't going to let that stop me. It just wasn't going to."
Minneapolis North couldn't stop Barnesville on Friday, as the Trojans rolled the Polars 34-20 in the Minnesota Class 2A semifinals Friday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
To begin the season, Strand was coming off a stroke, implementing a new offense he learned from Elk River with a sophomore quarterback who never played quarterback. That quarterback, Adam Tonsfeldt, broke his hand in a scrimmage before the season, and could not play quarterback until Week 6 of the season.
Minneapolis North, on the other hand, was a team that entered Friday having lost one game in its previous 35. It was a North team that was 11-0 and ranked No. 2 in the state.
It's now a North team that Barnesville sent to the offseason.
"He's such a big part of this team. I guarantee you we're not as good of a football team without him right here," Tonsfeldt said of Strand. "He gives us so much inspiration. He went through a lot and we know that. We're going to push ourselves. He wants to do it for us and we want to do it for him."
Barnesville junior Hunter Anderson couldn't resist chiming in.
"I don't think every student could say this, but I love my principal," said Anderson, who finished with 97 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries Friday.
Barnesville (11-2) was up 16-0 before North got its first first down. Preston Snobl took the opening kick 43 yards to the North 38.
Then, the Barnesville offense went to work. It took seven run plays to go 38 yards and find the end zone. Snobl took it in from 6 yards out and added the two-point conversion to put the Trojans up 8-0.
On the ensuing drive, North gambled and went for it on fourth-and-2 from its own 35. The Polars fumbled, Barnesville's Adrian O'Brien pounced on it and the Trojans scored four plays later. Nick Detloff ran in untouched for an 8-yard touchdown and Tonsfeldt added the two-point conversion to put the Trojans up 16-0.
"We weren't disciplined on defense," North coach Charles Adams said. "We were running past the play and more of watching and see who has the ball instead of everybody doing their assignment."
Chase Brenner added a pair of two-yard touchdown runs to put the Trojans up 28-0 with 3 minutes, 43 seconds remaining in the first half. North entered Friday having given up 60 points in 11 games on the season. The most the Polars had given up in game all season was 28.
"To prove people wrong, it's fun," Anderson said.
North got on the board with a 47-yard touchdown pass from Zach Yeager to Nasir El-Amin with 1:46 remaining in the first half. Yeager found Eli Campbell for the two-point conversion to cut the lead to 28-8 at the halftime break.
Yeager and El-Amin hooked up for a 45-yard touchdown pass on the opening drive of the second half to cut the Barnesville lead to 28-14.
Barnesville answered with an 11-play, 65-yard drive that took more than six minutes off the clock. Anderson capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to put the Trojans up 34-14 with 3:51 remaining in the third.
"Nobody really knows the strength of our offensive line, which I think is the strength of our team," said Tonsfeldt, who finished with 99 yards and two touchdowns on 12 caries. "They play so hard. They block so well. They know who to block. We get the touchdowns, but they should really be the ones getting the credit."
North would cut the lead to 34-20 on a 2-yard touchdown run from Kehyan Porter with 7:45 to go, but it was too late.
The underdog continues to bark, as Barnesville will take on top-ranked Caledonia at 1 p.m. Friday, Nov. 23, at U.S. Bank Stadium for the Class 2A title. Caledonia has won 53 straight games and three straight state titles.
"We're going to be ready for them," Tonsfeldt said. "They're a good team, but I guarantee we're going to be ready for them."