Mankato Loyola needed a three-touchdown flurry over the final 10 minutes Tuesday night to dispose of St. Clair 42-14 in a Section 2A quarterfinal football game at Loyola Field.

After Beamer Flowers teamed up with tight end Tyler Goettl on a 7-yard touchdown pass and ensuing two-point conversion to get the Cyclones within 21-14, a pair of touchdown runs from junior quarterback Steve Helget sparked the top-seeded Crusaders’ final surge.

“They came out right from the start hitting hard, and I don’t think we were ready for them,” Helget said. “Coach got us a little more focused at halftime, and we started to realize that they came to play. They were sending all five guys up front and a couple of linebackers on every play.

“Our linemen weren’t used to that so we’ll have to make some adjustments this week. Our receivers were getting open, but they were getting to me almost every down. When you blitz everybody you’re going to give up the big play and they did that a couple of times.”

Loyola (8-1) defeated the Cyclones 49-7 during the regular season. However, this time around St. Clair’s aggressive play kept things interesting for much of the contest. Senior fullback Jacob Preston rushed for 76 yards in seven carries, including a 59-yard scoring run on the first play of the second half which got the Cyclones within 14-6.

“I am very proud of these guys, they left everything they had on the field,” first-year St. Clair coach Jeff Tietje said. “I am sure they were scratching their heads wondering what was going on at halftime. I think we kind of ran out of gas in the second half, and they got some plays on us.

“We were able to put pressure on them consistently and got them in situations where we knew what they had to do. But there’s a reason why they’re the No.1 seed, and they made some good plays. … It was a heck of a game and a lot of fun.”

St. Clair (1-8) fell behind 14-0 at halftime as the Crusaders scored on a 75-yard, 11-play drive late in the first quarter and on Helget’s 51-yard pass to Alex Haefner on the first play of the second quarter. Senior Danny Kuderer sped 16 yards around left for the first score.

“They played very inspired football tonight,” Loyola coach Dan Rotchadl said of the Cyclones. “They were physical, they were aggressive, and they took it to us. Our kids finally picked it up and responded a little bit in the second half.

“They were bringing their linebackers, and we didn’t do the job of walling off like we normally do. You never know what you’re going to get from 17- and 18-year-old kids out there. When you get in games like this, defense is always the difference, and when you pick it up defensively things will work out.”

Leading 14-6, senior Alex Kolars forced a Cyclones’ fumble and Haefner scooped it up and rambled 58 yards midway though the third quarter. Helget then scored on a 24-yard run off the left side before his 8-yard touchdown run on a quarterback draw put the Crusaders up 35-14.

Adam Rajtar’s 44-yard interception return in the final minute closed out the scoring.

Loyola ended up with 326 total yards compared to the Cyclones’ 249. Senior Rod Price rushed for 109 yards in 11 carries for the winners, while Helget picked up 79 yards in 14 tries. Haefner caught three passes for 86 yards.

“Our offense came out a little slow, and give credit to them the way they were moving the ball,” Haefner said. “They brought the house at us and gave us everything they had. We had a little more variety on offense in the second half, and we were more patient.”

Loyola, which got two interceptions from Kuderer and forced six total turnovers, hosts Sleepy Eye at 2 p.m. Saturday.

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