Apparently the matchup between the St. Croix Falls Saints and Bloomer Blackhawks football teams is a coin toss. When the teams first met in a Heart O’North conference tilt in the season opener on Sept. 25th the game went to overtime before Bloomer came out on top 34-28. The playoff game last Friday between the same two teams looked like we could see overtime again when Blackhawks running back Ethan Rothbauer scored with 4:40 to play to cut the SCF lead to 28-26 with the PAT looming. The Saints defense was up to the task as they stopped a passing attempt for the potential tying score to ward off overtime.
“I'm really proud of this group of kids,” St. Croix Falls Coach Grant Belisle said. “They've been through so much. Any amount of time we can get to continue playing together, we'll take it. Getting the opportunity to practice together for another week, and continue playing, we'll take it.”
St. Croix Falls will now travel to Elk Mound to challenge the Mounders who defeated Spooner 20-14 in their first playoff game.
“We're off to Elk Mound this week,” Belisle said. “It's going to be a tough challenge but something we're looking forward to. The Mounders have some talented players so we'll need to match up and play disciplined defense. We won't get away with turning the ball over this week. It just can't happen.”
Turnovers were something that has been an occasional trouble spot for St. Croix Falls this season. Against Bloomer they lost the turnover battle 3-0 but were still able to dig deep for the win. SCF outgained Bloomer 307 yards to 243 with all of the Saints yards coming via the infantry. Dayo Oye had a great game behind solid blocking as he rushed for 177 yards on 28 carries. Oye scored from runs of four yards and 51 yards. Graidy Guggisberg made his lone carry count as he covered 52 yards and scored the first touchdown of the second half. Kaleb Bents was the first Saint to hit pay dirt as he scored midway through the opening quarter on a one yard blast. Bents was also instrumental in the win by his special team’s play as he converted all four of his PATs. St. Croix Falls totaled 307 yards on the ground and averaged 6.1 yards per carry.
Oye knows that his running success is dependent on those in front of him that clear the way. “Without my teammates great blocking I wouldn’t be able to do anything,” he said. “My blockers really deserve all of the credit.”
“Football is the ultimate team sport,” St. Croix Falls senior lineman Tanner Gaffey said. “Our running backs know they wouldn’t be successful without our line and vice versa for the linemen. For us to win, everyone on the field has to do the right thing. As a lineman it’s always really satisfying to make your block and see the running back on his way to the end zone, knowing that you and the rest of the line did their job correctly.”
St. Croix Falls got the scoring started with a one yard run by Bents in the first quarter. Bloomer responded with a one yard run by Brook Haseltine to cut the Saints lead to 7-6. Oye’s four yard run to pay dirt increased the SCF lead to 14-6 with 1:13 left before intermission. The Blackhawks cut the lead to 14-12 on a 22 yard pass completion from Jack Strand to Charlie Herrick less than a minute later.
St. Croix Falls had the only scoring in the third quarter when Guggisberg scored from 52 yards away to make the score 21-12. Oye stretched the Saints lead to 28-12 with 9:41 remaining with a 51 yard jaunt. Bloomer was not done however as they cut the lead to 28-20 with a one yard run and a 2-point conversion by Strand with 8:22 to play. Less than four minutes later Rothbauer scored on a 29 yard run but the potential tying 2-point conversion was thwarted by the Saints.
With the win St. Croix Falls gets another week of practice and another week of building friendships.
“You know we practiced in some brutal conditions last week,” Belisle said. “On Tuesday, it sleeted, rained, snowed, and everything else. Wednesday and Thursday, our field had 3-5 inches of snow to practice in. The kids didn't complain. They didn't waiver. They like being together. They're having fun.”