STAPLES -- The Staples-Motley Cardinals football team has used its potent option running game to open up big pass plays during this season.
In the Section 6, Class 3A quarterfinals Tuesday, the Cardinals were forced to take to the air.
Paynesville stuffed the S-M running game as the Bulldogs advanced to the section semifinals with a 15-12 win against the Cardinals. S-M managed just 86 yards on the ground with its usually strong running game.
"They run that option so well we knew we had to take that away," Paynesville head coach Kyle Nehowig said.
The Bulldogs did that by packing much of their team on the line of scrimmage and blitzing their linebackers. The move worked as the Cardinals were stopped for negative yardage on seven carries.
"It's hard to run when their linebackers are two yards in your backfield," S-M head coach Ryan Beachy said. "We worked on picking up those linebackers. When you run most of the season, and they totally shut that down, it kind of gets in the kids' heads a bit."
Paynesville put together a 12-play, 60-yard drive in the fourth quarter to score the game winner with 1:10 left when Milan Virant twisted and turned his way into the end zone from three yards out. The Bulldogs converted on fourth downs twice during the drive. Virant ran in the two-point conversion to make it 15-12.
A blocked extra-point attempt on the Cardinals' first score proved to play a big part in the game's outcome. Ironically, it was S-M's second try after the first successful attempt was re-kicked because of an encroachment penalty on Paynesville.
"That kid just came through the line like nobody touched him," Beachy said.
"Special teams is always a key."
Matt Mosack scored the touchdown on a quarterback keeper that put the Cardinals up 6-0, but Paynesville's Chris Fuchs tied the game on a quarterback sneak to open the second half. Fuchs appeared to be stopped at the line of scrimmage, but busted the play outside before striding 20 yards into the end zone. The extra point gave Paynesville a 7-6 edge.
That lead was short-lived as S-M came back on its next possession to score, keyed by a 46-yard pass from Mosack to Izaak Schafer.
Kyle Bendson put the Cardinals up 12-7 on a two-yard plunge, but the two-point conversion failed.
With the running game unable to consistently move the ball, S-M was forced to the air. Mosack responded, completing 11-of-23 passes for 180 yards.
"We (stop the run) every time and if you can pass the ball well, you're going to move the ball on us like they did," Nehowig said. "I knew they'd try to throw."
S-M forced three turnovers as Adam Barnett and Schafer each picked off passes, while Kurt Porter recovered a fumble. The Cardinals did not give up any turnovers. Paynesville held the edge in yardage, with 293 yards compared to S-M's 262.
"The story of the game is they hit harder," Beachy said. "I don't know if we weren't ready. We made a good effort at the end of the game, we made a good effort in the middle of the game, but there were points where they just killed us."
Paynesville 0 0 7 8 -- 15
Staples-Motley 0 6 6 0 -- 12
SM-Matt Mosack 3 run (kick failed) 2:29
P-Chris Fuchs 20 run (Josh Kampsen kick) 6:00
SM-Kyle Bendson 2 run (run failed) 1:52
P-Milan Virant 3 run (Virant run) 1:10
First downs -- P 14, SM 14
Rushes-yards -- P 49-232, SM 37-86
Pass comp-att-int-yards -- P 5-10-2-61, SM 11-23-0-180
Sacked-yds lost -- P 0-0, SM 1-4
Total offense -- P 293, SM 262
Fumbles-lost -- P 1-1, SM 1-0
Penalties-yards lost -- P 10-70, SM 4-30
Rushing -- P: Adam Schaefer 8-25, Virant 20-101, Kevin Mehr 15-67, Fuchs 6-39; SM: Kyle Detloff 13-37, Mosack 13-37, Bendson 9-6, Tyler Frisk 1-8, Landon Thompson 1-(-2).
Passing -- P: Fuchs 5-9-1-61, Kampsen 0-1-1-0; SM: Mosack 11-23-0-180.
Receiving -- P: Schaefer 1-0, Nic Glenz 3-39, Max Meagher 1-22; SM: Adam Barnett 5-78, Bendson 2-33, Izaak Schafer 2-54, Frisk 2-15.
Overall -- SM finishes 6-3.
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