The Knights exploded for 76 points Friday night in a victory over Hill City/Northland.
Scoring points hasn’t been an issue for the St. Mary’s football team. Outside of a 14-point showing against Madelia, the Knights have put up 56 and 50 points in their two wins this season.
As the sunshine glistened off of Sleepy Eye Lake, the Knights hosted Hill City/Northland at 6 p.m. Friday night opposed to the normal 7 p.m. start time to accommodate their long travel.
The Knights lost the opening coin toss and HC/N elected to receive the opening kick. On their first possession of the game, HC/N was forced to punt after a three and out. The Knights were set up for great field position as the punter bobbled the snap and Kyle Tauer sacked him for a turnover on downs. The Knights took over at the HC/N 30-yard line.
The Knights wasted no time as they marched right down the field as Tauer took it in for the 6-yard touchdown. Quarterback Nick Labat would find receiver Spencer Hoffmann for the 2-point conversion. Knights held an 8-0 lead early in the first quarter.
HC/N would respond with a nice drive of their own. Behind running back Vinny Ruschmeier and quarterback Cameron Wake, HC/N would go down the field to tie it up as Wake ran it in on a quarterback keeper and converting the 2-point conversion to tight end Jonathon Gowell. The score was then tied 8-8 with just under four minutes remaining in the first quarter.
After a failed onside kick, the Knights took over at their own 47-yard line. Taking advantage of the good field position, the offensive line set the tone for the Knights’ rushing attack as Riley Strate would take it in from five yards out. The Knights point after attempt failed and the Knights took a 14-8 lead with 2:05 remaining in the first quarter.
Ruschmeier returned the ensuing kickoff to the 41-yard line setting his team up with good field position.
The Knights defense was relentless for most of the night. Dominic Helget came up with a sack forcing a fourth down for HC/N. After another mishap on the snap, the Knights took over on the HC/N 22-yard line.
On the first play from scrimmage, Labat dropped back and dropped a dime to receiver Carter Currans for the touchdown. Labat would find Wyatt Craft in the corner of the end zone for the two-point conversion as St. Mary’s extended their lead to 22-8 with 11:49 remaining in the second quarter.
On the following drive, the rush from the defense hadn’t stopped. Kyle Tauer pressured the quarterback’s blindside and forced an errand pass into the hands of Spencer Hoffmann for the interception.
St. Mary’s wasted no time getting points on the board as Labat found Hoffmann deep down the near sideline for a large gain, setting up the Knights inside the red zone. With the offense getting whatever they wanted, the Knights called upon running back Patrick Hoffmann. Hoffmann ran it in from seven yards out for the touchdown. With 8:58 remaining, the Knights held a commanding 28-8 lead.
Hill City/Northland wouldn’t let the Knights get away too quickly as they finally got back on the board when Wake found Tucker Holm for a two-yard touchdown pass. With time ticking down in the first half, the Knights held a 28-14 lead over HC/N.
Labat would once again take advantage of the Knights’ gameplan to take deep shots down the field. Labat found Hoffmann deep down the sideline once again, setting the Knights up nicely to score again before the half. “That was one of our goals this week. To take deep shots down the field, spread out the defense a little bit,” said Coach Brent Kucera.
Labat in a rhythm would hit Wyatt Craft for a touchdown from 13-yards out. Following the successful two-point conversion, the Knights led 36-14.
HC/N looking to half all of the Knights momentum failed to get anything going offensively as St. Mary’s used their timeouts to get the ball back just before the half.
Labat would send John Luu Mathiowetz down the sideline and hit him in stride, setting the Knights up for a first and goal inside the 10-yard line. With time winding down, Labat was scanning his options in front of him, and finding nothing open, would take it himself as he rushed to his left and dove for the pylon as he extended the ball over the goal line for the score. The Knights went into halftime with a convincing 42-14 lead.
The Knights would open up the second half and it was more of the same for their offense. Labat led his team down the field and found Marcus Lang for a 26-yard score and that would do it for Labat as he finished with another impressive stat line. The quarterback was 9-for-10 with 182 yards passing and three TD’s through the air. Labat also added a touchdown on the ground with 38 yards rushing. Freshman Carson Domeier would take over offensively for the Knights.
Just before reaching midway through the third quarter, the Knights continued to ride their defense and strong offensive line. Patrick Hoffmann got his second trip to paydirt to put the Knights up 56-14. Hoffmann finished with 61 yards on eight carries and two TDs.
With Coach Kucera resting his starters, that meant his underclassmen would get more time once again. For the third time this season his younger core would get some playing time. “It’s really important to get these guys the reps they need in a varsity game,” he said. Trent Steffensmeier would add to the stat sheet with a touchdown of his own as the third quarter was winding down. As time in the third quarter expired, the Knights had extended their lead to 62-14.
Domeier would also take advantage of the opportunity he was given Friday night. Carson had 40 yards rushing and scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter to make it 70-14 for the Knights. Steffensmeier would add to his night with a 68-yard interception return for a touchdown with just under two minutes remaining to give the Knights the dominating 76-14 win over Hill City/Northland.
Adding to the Knights total was Riley Strate. Strate had 56 yards rushing and a touchdown. John Luu Mathiowetz had four receptions for 65 yards while Spencer Hoffmann had 3 grabs for 60 yards. Defensively the Knights were led by Kyle Tauer and Dominic Helget who were forces in the backfield all night long.
Coach Kucera and the Knights look forward to their matchup next week. The Knights travel to Nicollet to face the Raiders Friday night, Sept. 28th at 7 p.m. He says his defense will have to be ready in particular, his defensive backs as Nicollet likes to pass the ball to move their offense. He believes they’ll be ready.