Posted On: 11/18/18 5:19 AM

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For as long as football has been played, a tried and true method of winning football games has been run the ball effectively and play good defense. That was the formula all season for the St. Thomas Academy Cadets on their way to the 4A semi-finals. There was no reason for the Cadets to go away from that philosophy now. On the defensive side of the ball, the Cadets’ defense allowed 21 points, but 14 of them were after the game had been decided. They also scored two points of their own. On offense, running back Brendan McFadden rushed for 216 yards and three touchdowns on their way to a 33-21 victory over Bemidji.

Bemidji moved the ball well on their first drive but faced a 3rd and long. In a precursor to what would be seen all night, STA’s defense made a play. Defensive back Stephen Betts intercepted a pass to stop the threat.

The Cadets got McFadden going right away. STA ran him in between the tackles, gashing the Lumberjacks’ defense. Bemidji’s defense – which played well in the first half – stepped up and forced a 28-yard field goal by John Copeland. The kick would give STA a 3-0 lead.

STA’s defense forced a three and out and gave the ball back to their offense. In a fast first quarter, the Cadets’ second possession of the game bled into the second quarter. The Bemidji defense would make a stop, but STA would punt the ball down to the five-yard line.

STA’s Luke Herzog and Garrison Solliday put pressure on the Bemidji quarterback. Solliday – who played over the center – was a huge part of stopping the inside running game of the Lumberjacks. In this instance, he sacked the quarterback and gave his team two points with a safety.

After the free kick, Bemidji defensive lineman Isaiah Rintala beat a block and stripped the ball away from McFadden. Rintala was also able to recover the fumble – setting his offense up at the STA 29-yard line.

The Lumberjacks would cash in. Facing a third and nine, quarterback Jacob Beberg found James Williams for a first down into the red zone. Later in the drive, Beberg completed a crossing route to Kade Peterson for a touchdown and a 7-5 lead.

The Lumberjacks’ defense would step up again and force a three and out. They got a break on special teams when a poor snap on the punt gave Bemidji the ball on the STA 25-yard line. STA would take the momentum back for good a few plays later. The Cadets’ defense forced the Lumberjacks into a 4th and two at the 17. Bemidji tried to run the option, but the pitch was fumbled, and STA’s Betts recovered the fumble.

STA quarterback Charlie Fafinski completed a pass to Vinny Hubbell to convert a third and long. Later, STA executed a perfect wide receiver screen to Thomas Odegard to get STA inside the ten. The Cadets inched the ball toward the goal line. With 43 seconds to play in the half, they faced a 4th and goal at the one. Bemidji stuffed McFadden initially, but the second effort by McFadden got him in the end zone. With the added conversion STA took a 13-7 lead into the half.

With the blocking of PJ Gaertner, Logan Coutier, Alex Kuntz, Jason Samec, and Devin Klein along the Cadets’ offensive line, the Lumberjacks had to commit eight and sometimes nine defenders to play the run. That commitment to the run opened the play action and screen game for STA.

A screen to McFadden for twenty yards plus a five-yard facemask moved the ball into Lumberjack territory. Fullback Jack Nozel – who was effective as a blocker, runner and receiver – threw a block to open a hole for McFadden’s 32-yard touchdown run up the middle.

Now down 20-7, Bemidji threatened on their next drive. Once they got into the red zone the Cadets’ defense stepped up again. On a third and long, Bemidji tried to throw a screen, but linebacker Jack Horst blew it up, forcing a fourth and long. Forced to throw long, the Cadets’ defense put pressure on Beberg again and forced a poor throw.

The Cadets went to McFadden to put the game away. On third and three the talented running back took a pitch, got the corner and ran 73 yards for a touchdown. STA had opened a 26-7 lead.

STA would get on the board one more time. Fafinski hooked up with Joe Deyak for 56 yards to make the score 33-7.

Bemidji would add a pair of late touchdowns to make the final score 33-21.

Rushing yards should come fast and furious in one week when STA plays Owatonna and running back Jason Williamson on Saturday.