St. Mary’s rolls by Springfield

SLEEPY EYE – Even after Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s jumped out to a three-touchdown lead in the second half, Springfield still found a way to make it interesting.

A nine-play, 56-yard scoring drive and a late pick by senior defensive back Cole Owens – his second of the game – secured the 28-14 win for St. Mary’s against Springfield in a Southwest District, East Subdistrict football game on Friday.

The Tigers (0-2) came back from a 21-point deficit to pull to within one touchdown before giving up the aforementioned scoring drive late in the fourth quarter.

“We could’ve gone away at 21-0, but we didn’t and I’m so proud of them for that,” Springfield coach Paul Dunn said. “We kept battling and we made a game of it.”

Owens had two big interceptions in the game for the Knights (1-1) – the first one denying Kale Meendering of a wide-open snag a couple yards from the end zone and the second one securing the victory.

“I was staring down [quarterback Devin Johnson’s] receivers and he wasn’t really looking me off,” Owens said. “I just read the quarterback and got to the ball.”

The Knights jumped out to an early 14-0 lead in the first quarter.

Senior quarterback Nick Strate capped off a 10-play, 63-yard opening drive with a 15-yard touchdown run to make it 7-0 before Nic Helget recovered an accidental onside kick that the Springfield returners thought was going out of bounds to give the Knights the ball again.

This gave the Knights good field position at the Tigers’ 32-yard line, setting up a 1-yard touchdown run by Nathan Schroepfer to make it 14-0.

Strate was 1-for-3 passing for 11 yards and had 62 yards rushing on five carries before going down with a wrist injury, which changed the St. Mary’s operation entirely.

“He went down and the guys dropped their heads,” St. Mary’s coach Brent Kucera said. “They’ve got to learn to rebound in situations like that. I’m very disappointed at how we reacted and it took us a long time to kind of rebound from it and gather ourselves.”

Andrick Sanchez took the place of Strate in the backfield and did what he could to wrangle the bad snaps that sailed over his head deep in the Knights’ own territory. They escaped without giving up too much and entered the locker room with a 14-0 lead.

After forcing a bad punt from the Tigers’ first possession of the second half, Schroepfer took the first handoff and ran it 47 yards to the house to put the Knights up 21-0 early in the third quarter. Schroepfer later punched it in from 9 yards out on a successful drive operating out of the wildcat to put the game away.

“Nate did really good there because our second quarterback, Sanchez, got dinged up there,” Kucera said. “He didn’t practice the position at all, so he responded very well in running the ball for us.”

Schroepfer finished the game with a game-high 124 yards rushing on 18 carries for three touchdowns.

Kyle Windschitl collected 41 yards on 12 carries in lightening the load for Schroepfer as well. He also hauled in the lone reception for Strate – an 11-yard completion in the first half.

Aside from his two interceptions, Johnson was efficient behind center for Springfield in going 8-for-16 passing for 106 yards. He also tallied 22 rushing yards on eight carries.

“He’s improving every down, every game, every practice,” Dunn said of Johnson. “This is his second varsity start and I’m really happy with his progress. He’s figuring out that we have to get the ball out on time – a lot of those little things that sometimes as a coach you take for granted – but he’s a student of the game and he’s working very hard at it.”

Meendering had a big night with four receptions for 82 yards, while freshman Decker Scheffler had two catches for 13 yards. Senior running back Joe Pieschel had two rushing touchdowns with 59 rushing yards on 12 carries.

St. Mary’s plays Friday at Sleepy Eye, while Springfield hosts Red Rock Central.

Springfield 0 0 6 8 – 14

S.E. St. Mary’s 14 0 7 7 – 28

Scoring

First quarter

SM – N Strate 15-yd TD run (Rosenhammer PAT good), 7:04

SM – Schroepfer 1-yd TD run (Rosenhammer PAT good), 4:37

Second quarter

None

Third quarter

SM – Schroepfer 47-yd TD run (Rosenhammer PAT good), 9:16

Sp – Pieschel 2-yd TD run (2-pt. conv. no good), 0:05

Fourth quarter

Sp – Pieschel 3-yd TD run (2-pt. conv. good), 7:50

SM – Schroepfer 9-yd TD run (Rosenhammer PAT good), 2:33

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