STAPLES -- The Staples-Motley Cardinals suffered two problems during an otherwise spectacular football season.
Both of those issues were exploited by the 11-1 Becker Bulldogs as they eliminated the Cardinals 28-22 in Friday's Class 3A state quarterfinals.
The Cardinals' first problem was special teams. Their second was winning close games.
While a poor kickoff team plagued the Cardinals all season, it was the kick return and punt teams that dealt S-M two devastating blows.
After a Tim Langer 6-yard touchdown reception made the score 22-14, the Bulldogs recovered an onside kick.
Eight plays and 48 yards later, Mike Rittenour scored from one yard to make it 22-20.
"The onside kick was huge because we got the ball back and scored again," said Langer. "We've tried it before but not that much, unless we're in a situation where we are down by a couple of touchdowns. It worked for us."
With 3:01 remaining in the fourth quarter and S-M still clinging to the two-point lead, the Cardinals were faced with fourth down and seven.
S-M attempted a fake punt, but Chris Jansson's pass was incomplete and Becker got the ball at its 45.
"The onside kick and the fake punt, those are the two plays there," said Cardinals coach Ryan Beachy. "We were prepared for onside kicks like that. We practice that every Thursday. It caught us a little bit off guard there. The same thing when we ran that fake punt. We caught them off guard. If we get the ball to the guy and we catch the ball and, shoot, we could have even got a score. He was wide open."
On the Bulldogs' first play, Evan Cobb found Langer for a 25-yard gain. Two plays later Cobb connected with Shane Potter for a 38-yard touchdown pass and the final score.
"When we got the ball back we knew we could score," said Langer. "We were down, we needed a score to win the game and we just pulled it together as a team and we scored a touchdown on them."
Cobb finished with 308 yards and three touchdowns on 26-of-44 passing. Langer had eight receptions for 141 yards.
"I was afraid of their passing game," said Beachy. "They went double twins to the outside and we couldn't get to the quarterback on a three-step drop or a quick pass. We were having just two guys wide and the linebackers were coming off the edge and that stopped their run. But they threw the ball 44 times.
"They made the plays. We made some, but they made more."
Jake Wagner led the Cardinals with 161 yards on 26 carries. He scored the game's first points when he barreled in from three yards.
Andy Mertens gave S-M a 14-8 advantage on a 17-yard run and Joe Smith sprinted 70 yards on S-M's next possession for the Cardinals' final score.
Smith finished with 97 yards on five carries. He also threw for 41 yards but was intercepted twice.
The first turnover resulted in Cobb's first touchdown pass that tied the game 8-8.
"This was a team that was very mature," said Beachy. "This was probably one of the first teams I've coached that wasn't a selfish team. Nobody said I need the ball. Nobody said I need to be in on defense. Nobody complained about playing time. This was a team that was focused on one goal and that was to get to where we wanted to be at the end of the season. We fell just a little bit short."
Becker 0 8 6 14 -- 28
Staples-Motley 0 8 14 0 -- 22
SM-Jake Wagner 3 run (Wagner run) 11:28
B-Shane Potter 7 pass from Evan Cobb 2:36
SM-Andy Mertens 17 run (run failed) 9:53
SM-Joe Smith 70 run (Smith run) 6:27
B-Tim Langer 6 pass from Cobb (pass failed) 1:12
B-Mike Rittenour 1 run (pass failed) 10:12
B-Shane Potter 38 pass from Cobb (Cobb run) 2:30
Rushes-yards -- B 22-43, SM 48-238
Pass comp-att-int-yards -- B 26-44-0-308, SM 2-7-2-41
Total offense -- B 66-351, SM 55-279
Rushing -- B-Ryan Thompson 6-20, Mike Rittenour 9-18, Evan Cobb 4-1, Eric Bergman 1-2, Robert Koranda 1-2, Derek Potter 1-0; Jake Wagner 26-161, Andy Mertens 11-31, Joe Smith 5-97, Jordan Olson 1-2, Beau Pilgrim 5 (-3)
Passing -- B-Cobb 26-44-308; Smith 2-7-41
Receiving -- Tim Langer 8-141, Bailey Rowell 7-52, Shane Potter 4-78, Derek Potter 4-24, Bergman 1-3, Koranda 2-10; Zach Martin 1-11, Mertens 1-30
JEREMY MILLSOP can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5856.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.