The St. Mary’s Knights and the New Ulm Cathedral Greyhounds clashed last Friday night in Sleepy Eye for the Section 2A championship in a rematch of last year’s game. However, this year the roles were reversed with St. Mary’s posting an undefeated record and the number one seed whereas last year they were the upstart team that surprised the Greyhounds and pulled off a bit of an upset to win. The results, though, were the same with St. Mary’s decisively winning 48-28 to take the Section 2A championship for the second year in a row.
It seems strange to say that with a 20 point margin the game was close, as St. Mary’s held a two or three touchdown lead throughout the game, but Cathedral has a solid offense and the lead never really felt safe until well into the fourth quarter. Unlike most run-oriented offenses that the Knights faced this year, Cathedral can throw the ball just enough to keep a defense off balance. The big difference between the two teams is that St. Mary’s has a more balanced offense that can run and pass with equal skill and can throw the deep ball.
Cathedral did not have a vertical passing game to match up with the Knights, mostly throwing screens and short outs, but depending on the run to put points on the board. “Jordan (Anderson) and his wide receivers were in sync,” said St. Mary’s head coach Brent Kucera. “They were completing the deep balls very well. Cathedral’s defenders were in position, but Jordan put the ball in the perfect spot.”
“Cathedral’s offense was very good,” said Kucera. “They executed their blocks and ran well.” But in reality, Cathedral simply did not have the game to keep up with St. Mary’s prolific scoring machine. St. Mary’s had 12 possessions and scored on seven of them. Also, at least in this game, the Knights had a better defensive effort and stopped the Greyhounds when they had to. They held the running tandem of Ben Kittler and Adam Schnobrich to 79 and 59 yards respectively. The Greyhounds did not score on a pass play.
St. Mary’s took the opening kickoff and scored on a methodical six play 59-yard drive that featured a 31-yard pass play to Sean Mathiowetz and a 14-yard scoring pass to Brandon Helget. Mitch Neid ran the ball in for the two-point PAT and the Knights took an 8-0 lead, one they would never relinquish. Cathedral was forced to punt, pinning the Knights back on their own seven yard line. Cathedral must have thought “We’ve got them now, in bad field position.” Wrong. Anderson dropped back and dropped a perfect pass into Mathiowetz’s hands, who ran 94 yards for the score. Mathiowetz also caught the PAT pass to up the score to 16-0. The 94 yard pass play was a St. Mary’s school record, breaking last year’s 91-yard play from Anderson to Adam Sellner.
The Greyhounds scored on their next possession on a seven yard run by Schnobrich. The PAT failed and the quarter ended with the Knights in the lead 16-6. St. Mary's scored to open the second quarter on a 17 play 65-yard drive that ate up a lot of time. Neid ran six yards for the TD, the PAT was no good and the Knights extended the lead to 22-6. On their next possession St. Mary’s was forced to punt for the first time in the game, but Cathedral could not capitalize on the opportunity when Mike Hirsch tipped a Colin Helget pass and the ball was intercepted by Lucas Heiderscheidt. The Knights went right to work and scored on two plays, the TD coming on a 40-yard pass play to John Brandl for a 28-6 lead. (The PAT failed.) The Greyhounds got on the board again when Kittler ran 14 yards for the score, helped by a pass interference call on the Knights. The two-point PAT was good and Cathedral narrowed the lead to 28-14. New Ulm threatened to score again, but they were stopped at the goal line by a great Heiderscheidt tackle of Schnobrich.
The third quarter was pretty quiet, with both teams being intercepted, stalling drives. St. Mary's got on the board with a TD late in the quarter on a short pass to Mathiowetz. The PAT failed and the Knights opened the gap again 34-14. The fourth quarter began with a score on a one-yard run by Schnobrich, the two-point conversion was good and it looked like the Greyhounds were getting back into the game at 34-22. That didn’t last for long as the Knights marched 55 yards to score on a four-yard run by David Surprenant, helped by a 37-yard pass play to Mathiowetz. Mathiowetz was having a terrific game and would end up with 183 yards receiving. The PAT was good for a 42-22 lead.
You have to give credit to the Greyhounds. They weren’t going down without a fight as they scored on a six yard run by Jake Stadick to make the game interesting at 42-28. St. Mary’s got the ball back and Anderson promptly connected with Brandl on a 40-yard pass and Surprenant ran the ball in from the six yard line to bump the score to its final mark of 48-28. On the next series Jared Rothmeier intercepted a Cathedral pass and with 2:43 left to play, St. Mary’s ran out the clock.
“Our O-line and David Surprenant really ran the ball well in the second half to keep the clock rolling and put points on the board to finish the game,” said Kucera. Surprenant had a monster game. The sophomore ran for 39 yards and two TDs and had nine solo tackles and four assists on defense. “Give credit to our quarterback,” said Surprenant after the game. “He found the right holes and I just had to wait for my blocks.” Surprenant has good speed and is a load to tackle. He’s going to be fun to watch the next two years.
Dragged away from the celebration on the field and asked what this game meant to the school and the team, Anderson said, “To go to state two years in a row is amazing. It’s great for the seniors who showed so much leadership all year long. We’ve been together for four years as high school friends and this is a great way to go out.” Anderson then pulled Cody Berkner into the conversation saying, “You’ve got to put my center in the paper. He’s a big reason for our success.” Indeed, the senior plays a difficult position on both sides of the ball, but especially at center where he has to make defensive reads, protect his quarterback and lead on run plays. Oh yeah, he also has to accurately snap the ball, no easy task when the Knights run so many plays out of the shotgun formation. Predictably for an offensive lineman Berkner didn’t have much to say, but his big smile showed he seemed to enjoy getting the recognition he richly deserves.
Next up is the state quarterfinals Saturday at 6 p.m., at the Rochester Community and Technical College where the Knights take on Bethlehem Academy from Faribault. There are no easy games at this level; each opponent is a sectional champion. “They are a tough team,” said Kucera. “Physically they don’t have any weaknesses and are solid at every position. I think their D-line is the strength of the team. They get off the ball and attack and they have good skill players. We’ll need to keep playing like this game. We look forward to the challenge.”
454 total yards, 301 passing, 154 running
Jordan Anderson: 98 yards rushing, 11/20 passing for 301 yards and 4 TDs
David Surprenant: 39 yards rushing, 2 TDs
Mitch Neid: 25 yards rushing, 1 TD, 1 PAT
Sean Mathiowetz: 6 receptions for 183 yards, 2 TDs, 1 PAT
John Brandl: 2 receptions, 80 yards, 1 TD
Brandon Helget: 2 receptions, 30 yards 1 TD
David Surprenant: 9 solo tackles, 4 assists
Lucas Heiderscheidt: 3 solo tackles, 3 assists, 1 Int.