SLEEPY EYE - The first series summed up the entire ballgame: frustration for Springfield and celebration for Sleepy Eye St. Mary's.
SESM defensive lineman Andrew Steffl picked off a deflected screen pass from Carter Erickson on the first possession of the game and rambled 53 yards for a score. The Knights (10-0, 8-0 SMC) carried over the momentum throughout the entire game to go to win 46-0 and advance to the Section 2A finals.
Steffl, an offensive and defensive lineman, is not accustomed to carrying the ball, but looked like a natural on the pick-six.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Springfield’s Ryan Fleischer tries to get past Mike Zinniel (11) of Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s during the Knights’ Section 2A playoff win Saturday in Sleepy Eye.
For more photos of this event go to cu.nujournal.com
"I got to give credit to fellow lineman Nate Lax," Steffl said. "He tipped it right into my hands and I caught it and just started running."
For Springfield (5-5, 4-4), it was an unfortunate bounce that kick-started the long night.
"They got momentum early and we made some mistakes," said Springfield coach Paul Dunn. "They got a lucky play and sometimes that happens."
The St. Mary's defense then took center stage, as Springfield was forced to punt on its last six possessions of the first half.
"Our goal was to stick to the gameplan and do your job," said Steffl, who added a sack.
Possessing the ball for much of the first half, the Knights' offense proved that they could score.
Quarterback Brandon Helget scored on runs of 53 and 39 yards in the remainder of the first quarter and the Knights stretched the lead to 20-0 after one quarter.
Helget then displayed his arm, leading a six-play, 73-yard drive that was capped off by a 17-yard touchdown strike to John Brandl. The Knights pushed the lead to 27-0 at half.
"They're a good team," Dunn said of St. Mary's. "They beat us up front on both sides of the ball and when that happens, they're going to win."
Two more St. Mary's touchdowns highlighted the third quarter, as Helget found Kodan Kosak down the seam for a 37-yard touchdown, and David Surprenant rumbled in from 3 yards out.
St. Mary's capped off the scoring in the fourth on a 4-yard run by Jaden Wait.
In truly dominating fashion, St. Mary's outgained Springfield 453-125.
Helget finished 8-of-12 for 192 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He added nine carries for 167 yards and two scores as well.
Kosak had four grabs for 138 yards and a touchdown to lead in receiving and added a pair of interceptions on defense as well.
Cooper Scheffler hauled in a 56-yard pass from Erickson for the lone offensive highlight for Springfield.
Springfield finishes its season at 5-5.
"We have improved from the get-go in August," Dunn said. "We've grown together as a team."
Of the seniors, Dunn said, "They've grown into leadership roles and all of them have improved both on the field and off and I'm really proud of them."
St. Mary's improves to a perfect 10-0 and will get a rematch with New Ulm Cathedral, which took the Knights to three overtimes earlier in the year before losing 20-14. That game will be on Friday, with the winner advancing to the state tournament, where the Knights have been the last two years.
"Our team is so set on getting to state again," Steffl said. "Nothing is going to stop us and we're going to keep going."