SLEEPY EYE -Top-seeded Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s began its bid for the state tournament with a 47-12 victory against No. 8-seeded Mankato Loyola in the Section 2A quarterfinals on Tuesday night.
The Knights (9-0, 8-0 Southern Minnesota Conference), who are vying for their third-straight trip to state, had to work out a few kinks despite getting the 35-point victory.
“[It was] not our best, I think we can do a lot better,” said St. Mary’s coach Brent Kucera. “It’s just the small things we’ve got to clean up if we’re going to continue to win any more games in the playoffs.
“The team’s not happy with themselves, either – they said that at halftime. We’ve got a lot of work to do yet.”
The loss for Mankato Loyola (0-9, 0-5 Gopher Valley) concluded its second-straight winless season. The Crusaders have not won since 2011.
The Crusaders managed to put up 12 points on the St. Mary’s defense that allowed 8.5 points per game – second-most in Class A – prior to the matchup.
But the mistakes were minimal when put into context with the Knights’ offensive production on the night.
Quarterback Brandon Helget threw for two touchdowns and ran for another with a game-high 111 rushing yards in three quarters of play. Helget went 9-for-15 in passing completions.
Junior Jaden Wait stepped up for regular workhorse David Surprenant, rushing for 91 yards on 11 carries for two touchdowns at running back.
“That’s the nice thing about having two running backs playing, one can have a bad game and the other can have a good game,” Wait said. “It’s usually back and forth.”
Surprenant still led the Knights in carries with 12, but netted 61 total yards, which included a 3-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.
Kucera said the plan was to give Wait more carries in an effort to relieve Surprenant, who has shouldered much of the rushing load through the regular season.
“You can’t go with just one running back, you need two good ones,” Kucera said. “I think we’ve got two good running backs.”
In the fourth quarter, sophomore Jared Beltz headlined a second-string group from the backfield with his 11 carries for 33 yards. Freshman Nathan Schroepfer also scored from 3 yards out in the fourth to put the game away for the Knights.
St. Mary’s will host No. 4-seeded Springfield in the Section 2A semifinals on Saturday. The game is slated to begin at 7 p.m.
ML 6 0 6 0 – 12
SESM 13 14 14 6 – 47
S – B. Helget to Brandl 15-yard TD pass (Surprenant PAT good), 7:56
S – Wait 10-yard TD run (PAT no good), 3:31
L – Fink to Seifert 24-yard TD pass (Gross PAT blocked), 0:16
S – Surprenant 3-yard TD run (Surprenant PAT good), 9:54
S – B. Helget to Brandl 36-yard TD pass (Surprenant PAT good), 1:40
S – B. Helget 43-yard TD run (Surprenant PAT good), 5:24
S – Wait 5-yard TD run (Surprenant PAT good), 4:10
L – Fink 13-yard TD run (2-pt. conv. no good), 0:23
S – Schroepfer 3-yard TD run (PAT no good), 2:26