By Shane Frederick
Free Press Staff Writer
ST. CLAIR —
Chris Harvey told his football players Tuesday evening to remember where they were just 14 months ago.
“The first day of practice last year, when we were in the gym and the administration came in and said they were canceling the season, how hurt we felt,” the St. Clair coach said. “Now fast forward a year. This is where we wanted to be, back in the playoffs.”
One year after playing a junior varsity schedule and missing out on a chance to play in the postseason, the Cyclones opened the Section 3A play with a 41-0 victory over Southwestern United.
“It wasn’t about fielding a team,” Harvey said, “but being competitive in every game we play.”
St. Clair, the tournament’s second seed, improved to 7-2 after getting touchdowns from six different players. Senior quarterback Boomer Flowers threw three touchdown passes.
“It’s definitely amazing,” Flowers said. “Last year, to not have a playoff game, was disappointing. But this year, I think we have a good shot at state with our team.”
That confidence started during the second week of the season with a win over Minnesota Valley Lutheran. There were bumps in the road with losses to Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity and Blooming Prairie, but a double-overtime win that knocked Bethlehem Academy out of first place in the Gopher Valley 1A on the final day of the regular season got the Cyclones fired up for the tournament.
“They started to believe in themselves,” St. Clair activities director Brad O’Donnell said. “With the JV schedule we had some success. But that alone wasn’t enough.
“They worked hard in the offseason. They went to a camp for the first time. They got in the weight room. After a couple wins, they started so say, ‘You know what? Maybe we can do some good things.’”
The Cyclones did plenty of good things against Southwestern United.
On the first play of their second possession, running back Miklo Miller found a huge hole on the left side of the line and ran 49 yards for the game’s first touchdown with one minute left in the first quarter. John Goebel’s 2-point conversion run made it 8-0.
The next time they had the ball, they went to the air for the first time, and Flowers hit Austin Nagel for a 36-yard scoring play. Nico Groenewold’s PAT made it 15-0.
Late in the first half, a Flowers screen pass to Michael Nett turned into a 52-yard touchdown play, and it was 22-0 at the break..
St. Clair scored on its first two possessions of the second half. Tyler Hauser ran in a touchdown from 37 yards out, and Flowers connected with tight end Joe Bruels for a 32-yard score. In the fourth quarter, John Goebel had a 77-yard touchdown run.
The Cyclones compiled 321 rushing yards, including 113 by Goebel. Flowers passed for 111 yards.
Defensively, St. Clair held Southwestern United to just 104 yards before the game went to running time in the fourth quarter. Dylan Boettcher and Miller had interceptions.
St. Clair hosts Martin County West at 3 p.m. Saturday.
“I told the team today, ‘No matter what happens in the playoffs, no one can take this away from you,’” O’Donnell said. “‘Very few people thought you would get to this level.’”