St. Mary’s gets past Sleepy Eye

SLEEPY EYE – The last chapter in the crosstown rivalry between Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s and Sleepy Eye was written with pass-happy play-calling, anxious runs and costly penalties.

St. Mary’s managed to overcome more of its shortcomings with decently orchestrated scoring drives in beating Sleepy Eye 21-6 in a Southwest District, East Subdistrict football game on Friday at Sleepy Eye High School.

The Knights (2-1), who will compete down at 9-man next year, put away their rivals with three interceptions of senior quarterback Sam Tessmer in the second half from defensive lineman Sean Salfer and defensive backs Nic Helget and Luke Miller.

“Anytime you’ve got a situation where you’re playing a bunch of guys from across town, that’s always a game you circle on your calendar,” St. Mary’s senior running back Nate Schroepfer said. “It’s a big rivalry, it brings the town together, it gets the fans excited. It’s always an emotional time when playing Public.”

Schroepfer duplicated his three-touchdown performance from last week’s 28-14 win against Springfield, rushing for a 10-yard score on the game’s opening drive as well as scoring runs of 6 yards in the second quarter and 10 yards in the fourth. He finished with a game-high 83 rushing yards on 16 carries and also had a 28-yard reception in the first half.

St. Mary’s kept its first-half drives alive with big passing performances from senior quarterback Nick Strate, who was 9-for-15 passing in the first half for 132 yards and one interception. He found fellow senior Andrew Kiecker three times for a combined 76 yards, including a 40-yard bomb on third down to the opposing 45-yard line on the opening drive of the game.

“[Kiecker] stepped up good, he caught the ball pretty well,” St. Mary’s coach Brent Kucera said. “They were giving us options and he was open, so we attacked it.”

The Indians (0-3) had a big interception by senior linebacker Gunner McGee that would have put them in the red zone called back on a holding call, giving the Knights a new set of downs instead. In the second quarter, the Indians again had a 22-yard pass completion from Tessmer to sophomore Landon Strong called back due to an illegal motion call.

In the third quarter, however, Sleepy Eye had a flash of brilliance in the form of an 18-play, 88-yard drive that ate 7:42 off the clock. The drive was capped off by a 5-yard touchdown pass from Tessmer to senior tight end Lane Trebesch just 5 seconds into the fourth quarter.

“That was a big confidence-builder for our offensive line,” Sleepy Eye coach Cory Haala said. “I’m proud of the guys in the way they did that.”

That score cut the Knights’ lead to 14-6 early in the fourth quarter, which caused Tessmer to anxiously force a ball into the hands of Salfer on a failed screen pass that gave the Knights the ball at the opposing 17-yard line. This set up Schroepfer’s second 10-yard touchdown run of the night to give the Knights a 21-6 lead with 8:26 to go.

The Knights recovered a squib kick and managed to keep the Indians from doing much from there on out.

Strate finished 9-of-19 passing, attempting just four passes in the second half and staying out for a good portion of the half. After the shoulder injury he sustained last week against Springfield, it was important to utilize the Wildcat with Schroepfer behind center to make sure Strate stays fresh for next week’s big showdown against Wabasso.

“He’s a competitor; he’s gotten nicked up in the past, but the thing with Nick is that he’s always going to fight through the injury,” Schroepfer said. “A lot of guys were saying tonight that we’ve got to make sure Nick stays cleans, we’ve got to keep his jersey white. We didn’t want him to take any shots. We did our best job to protect Nick, we care a lot about Nick.”

Kyle Windschitl finished with 36 rushing yards on 11 carries for the Knights. Helget, Max Heiderscheidt and Alex Woitas also had receptions as well.

Tessmer was 3-for-15 passing for 16 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions for the Indians. Strong led the team with 73 rushing yards on 16 carries, while Carter Tauer had 37 yards on 10 carries and McGee had 10 yards on six carries.

“Overall, I’m not disappointed with our guys; they played hard and hopefully we can take this momentum into next week,” Haala said.

Both teams have home games next week. Sleepy Eye hosts Springfield for its Homecoming, while St. Mary’s will host Wabasso.

S.E. St. Mary’s 7 7 0 7 – 21

Sleepy Eye 0 0 0 6 – 6

Scoring

First quarter

K – Schroepfer 10-yd TD run (Rosenhammer PAT good), 7:02

Second quarter

K – Schroepfer 6-yd TD run (Rosenhammer PAT good), 10:13

Third quarter

None

Fourth quarter

I – Tessmer to L Trebesch 5-yd TD pass (2-pt. conv. no good), 11:55

K – Schroepfer 10-yd TD run (Rosenhammer PAT good), 8:26

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