MINNEAPOLIS -- It had to end. Unfortunately for the Verndale Pirates football team, their dream season ended one game early. The No. 2-ranked Stephen-Argyle Storm beat the No. 1-ranked Pirates Saturday at the Metrodome, winning the State Nine-Man Semifinal game 28-14.
The loss ended Verndale's 25-game winning streak and their bid for a repeat championship. The Storm (13-0) advance to the Nov. 22 Prep Bowl championship against Hillcrest Lutheran Academy, which beat Spring Grove 19-16 in Friday's first Nine-Man semifinal.
"We have a lot of talent on our team," said Reece Henrickson, who ran for 107 of the Storm's 267 rushing yards. "We have an awesome line, and our other running backs are great, too. It's whoever gets the calls, I guess."
The bruising rushing attack, combined with opportunistic passing game, allowed S-A to control the line of scrimmage for most of the game. The Storm amassed 305 yards of total offense. Verndale was held to just 184 offensive yards.
Verndale quarterback Corey Umland's first pass set the tone. A Storm interception set up a 23-yard touchdown pass from Riley St. Germain to Brandon Setterholm for an early 7-0 lead. It was Verndale's first deficit in the playoffs.
It didn't last long. Tyler Fuller's four-yard touchdown run and a two-point conversion pushed the Pirates ahead 8-7. It was Fuller's ninth touchdown in five games.
But the Storm answered on its next possession with a five-yard scoring run by Henrickson. The two-point conversion gave S-A the lead for good at 15-8 going into halftime.
Stephen-Argyle 28, Verndale 14
The key: Reece Henrickson ran for 107 yards and three touchdowns as Stephen-Argyle knocked off the Pirates, who finished the season at 12-1.
Page 6B: Verndale's Jason Kneisl is the Athlete of the Week.
Monday: Pirates notebook.
Verndale opened the second half with a 13-play, 66-yard drive capped by a one-yard run by Tyler Fisher to pull within 15-14, but Umland's pass attempt on the conversion failed. S-A's Henrickson added two touchdowns in the second half.
It was Verndale's first loss since the 2001 Section 4 semifinals.
Pirates' coach Mike Mahlen said his team's inability to create big plays and stop S-A's defensive pressure were the keys to the game. Umland led Verndale with 69 yards on 22 carries. He was 6 of 18 passing for 52 yards.
The Storm had two touchdowns called back because of penalties, once for a block in the back and the other for clipping.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
Verndale 8 0 6 0 -- 14
Stephen-Argyle Central 15 0 0 13 -- 28
SA--Setterholm 23 pass from St. Germain (Lubarski kick), 9:59.
Vern--Fuller 4 run (Umland run), 4:15.
SA--Henrickson 5 run (Safranski pass from St. Germain), 2:23.
Vern--T. Fisher 1 run (pass failed), 4:18.
SA--Henrickson 3 run (Lubarski kick), 10:40.
SA--Henrickson 23 run (kick failed), 2:19.
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