MINNEAPOLIS - Three failed 2-point conversions, a sluggish first quarter offensively and inconsistency in the red zone are problems no team wants to experience one game away from playing for a state title.
Sleepy Eye St. Mary's suffered from all of the above in its 27-18 loss to Dawson-Boyd in the Class A state semifinals on Saturday at the Metrodome.
The Knights (12-1) fell behind early after a 36-yard touchdown pass from Joey to Michael Lee, unable to respond due to troubles on offense. In the first quarter, St. Mary's gained 1 yard from its nine offensive snaps.
Sleepy Eye St. Mary's quarterback Brandon Helget (2) runs the ball as Dalton Palmer (33) of Dawson-Boyd looks for the ball during the Class A state semifinal game on Saturday.
"Basically, they were fresh and we just needed to take some time and wear them down and adjust to what defense they were running," said SESM coach Brent Kucera. "They had the size on us and they were maybe just as strong.
"They had the athletes to cover us one-on-one on the outside - they were the first team to ever go 'Cover 0' on us, they got it done."
David Surprenant broke the Knights' rut offensively in the second quarter, when he broke for a 50-yard run down the right sideline from the 4-yard line for their second first down of the game.
Two rushes for losses by Jaden Wait stalled the drive, however, preventing the Knights from picking up momentum already trailing 13-0.
Dawson-Boyd (12-1) fell into a hole of its own at its 4-yard line the next series, which forced Joey Lee to toss two ill-advised passes from the back of the end zone after a 2-yard rush for loss by running back Dalton Palmer.
St. Mary's received the ball at the opposing 31-yard line as a result of the ensuing punt, which cued quarterback Brandon Helget's rush off the right tackle that went to the house the very next play.
The Knights opted for a 2-point conversion, but failed as the first of three failed conversions that would have had them trailing by three at 27-24 late in the fourth quarter.
"The extra points hurt us really bad," Kucera said. "We had a couple miscues and they read a couple plays. It was a big part of the game, those extra points."
St. Mary's pulled to within one point after Helget's completion on a pop pass to Surprenant ahead of the shallow coverage for a 63-yard score.
Joey Lee answered, however, with a 24-yard pass to Noah Stelter on the following drive to cap off an eight-play, 65-yard venture to take a 21-12 lead.
Joey Lee made the plays when he needed to, going 7-for-19 passing for 175 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 41 yards on nine carries. He was responsible for all four of Dawson-Boyd's touchdowns - two rushing and two passing.
"He could throw the ball real well," said SESM senior Mike Hirsch of Joey Lee. "I didn't know how good he was running-wise, but he was a decent quarterback; definitely All-State-worthy I guess."
Helget was also responsible for all three of the Knights' touchdowns, passing for one and rushing for two. Both quarterbacks each had an interception as well.
Surprenant eclipsed the 100-yard mark with 103 yard rushing on 16 carries. He finishes the season with 1,298 rushing yards through 13 games, an average of 99.8 per game.
"He played lights-out, he played a great game," Kucera said of Surprenant. "You could tell, he didn't have another ounce of energy left."
Dawson-Boyd will face top-ranked Mahnomen in the Class A state title game on Nov. 30 at the Metrodome. St. Mary's concludes its season with a 12-1 season in its third-straight appearance at the state tournament.
"We played hard toward the ends, I didn't feel like it was a failure by any means," Hirsch said. "I thought we fought hard and I'm proud of the team."
D-B 7 6 8 6 - 27
SESM 0 6 6 6 - 18
D - J. Lee to M. Lee 36-yard TD pass (Popma PAT good), 6:29
D - J. Lee 1-yard TD run (Popma PAT blocked), 10:12
S - B. Helget 31-yard TD run (B. Helget pass 2-pt. conv. no good), 2:32
S - B. Helget to Surprenant 63-yard TD pass (B. Helget pass 2-pt. conv. no good), 9:58
D - J. Lee to Stelter 24-yard TD pass (J. Lee to Stelter pass 2-pt. conv. good), 7:35
D - J. Lee 38-yard TD run (J. Lee pass 2-pt. conv. intercepted), 4:27
S - B. Helget 4-yard run (B. Helget pass 2-pt. conv. no good), 2:35