MARSHALL - It's often said that a good ground game sets up a good passing attack in football.
For Sleepy Eye St. Mary's, that was exactly the case as senior back David Surprenant rushed for more than 250 yards and quarterback Brandon Helget threw for two touchdowns as the Knights defeated Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity 20-14 in the Class A State Quarterfinals at Southwest Minnesota State University.
For Surprenant, it was a career high day in rushing as he was able to power over the Bulldog defenders time and time again.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s running back David Surprenant jumps through a hole as a pair of Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity defenders try to bring him down during the Knights’ win in the opening round of the Class A State Tournament Saturday at Southwest State University in Marshall.
For more photos of this event go to cu.nujournal.com
"I would've maybe said 100 is reasonable but I've never run for that much," Surprenant said of the big performance. "We just trusted what we've been doing all year and we'd keep on pounding the ball, getting first down after first down."
In the first quarter, a 46-yard run by LPHT's Mitch Roth set up first and goal at the St. Mary's 4, but back-to-back motion penalties was followed an interception in the end zone by St. Marys' Jon Brandl.
The Knights capitalized and scored on a 36-yard touchdown strike from Helget to Kodan Kosak to put the Knights up 6-0 with 11:53 left in the second quarter. The big pass play was set up by a 41-yard run by Surprenant late in the first quarter.
"The safeties were starting to cheat up so we always call audibles and play action and throw it over the middle," Surprenant said.?"It worked out pretty good."
After LP/HT's next drive resulted in a turnover on downs, the Knights went ahead by two scores when Surprenant scored from 6-yards out. Surprenant also rushed for the 2-point conversion to give the Knights a 14-0 lead with 4:17 left in the first half.
"It's what we wanted to do right away, just run the ball and wear them down throughout the game," receiver John Brandl said. "It really helped us out in the end there."
The Bulldogs managed to get on the board late in the first half to cut into the deficit.
LP/HT scored with one second left in the first half. A 43-yard pass put the ball on the St. Mary's 2, and the Bulldogs called a timeout even though they didn't have one left. That resulted in 15-yard penalty and the Bulldogs took advantage, scoring on a 17-yard touchdown pass to Nick Machemehl to make it 14-6 at the half.
After an interception in the third quarter, the Bulldogs tied the game at 14-14 when Alex Heigel scored from 2-yards out and they converted on the 2-point conversion with 7:04 left in the third quarter.
"They didn't quit, they're a very good football team, a lot better than people give them credit for," St. Mary's coach Brent Kucera said of LP/HT. "That was a good battle and we're happy to go home to the Dome."
While the tying score may have been frustrating, the Knights responded when Helget hit a wide open Mike Hirsch with 2:05 left in the third quarter, putting St. Mary's up 20-14.
The Bulldogs drove deep into St. Mary's territory in the fourth quarter, but that drive stalled at the St. Mary's 12 after a turnover on downs with 10:43 left in the game. That was the last time the Bulldogs touched the ball.
"Any time you can keep points off the board it helps a team," Brandl said. "Our defense has been there for us all year, it's our staple."
The Knights went to the ground game, eating up the rest of the clock to seal the win and the second trip to the Metrodome in three years. The Knights (12-0) will play Dawson-Boyd at 9 a.m. Saturday.