By Jake Schroer
Crow River Sports Reporter
Big plays marked a big victory for the STMA Knights football team on Saturday as the team cruised to a section semifinal win over Buffalo.
Coming off of a first round bye, the Knights appeared well-rested. Chris Kartes started the scoring with a short touchdown run, capping a drive that lasted nearly one half of the opening quarter.
After holding Buffalo to a three-and-out possession, the Knights blocked a punt, gaining excellent field position at the Bison 25 yard line. Jackson Greenwaldt ran for a touchdown, giving the Knights a 13-0 lead as the wind pushed Landon Bridell’s PAT attempt wide.
A fumble by the Bison gave STMA amazing field position again, and again the Knights took advantage. Kartes scored his second touchdown of the quarter, and Greenwaldt found Bridell for the two point conversion.
By the end of the first quarter, the Knights had already equaled the point total from the season opening game, a 21-3 win over Buffalo. Things only got worse for the Bison in the second quarter.
On the next Knights drive, Kartes scored his third touchdown, pushing the lead to 28-0. Dallas Freeman caught a 44 yard touchdown from Greenwaldt, making the lead 35-0 Knights. Finally, capping off STMA’s scoring was fullback Nick Burslie, who doubles as a defensive lineman. He burst through the defense for a 15 yard score. When the smoke cleared, STMA led 42-0 at halftime.
Coach Essler gave his starters the rest of the day off. The second team recorded no points, but the group effectively controlled the clock in the third quarter. After an early stop on the Bison, the Knights held the ball on a long drive that ended when Henry Berning threw an interception on the goal line.
Buffalo finished the game strong by scoring two touchdowns in the final quarter. Andrew Iverson scored from 14 yards out, and leading rusher Hunter Thompson did the same late in the game as the Knights prevailed by the final score of 42-14.
Coach Essler worried about rust after a nine-day layoff, but the team’s performance in the first quarter encouraged him.
“We hit the ground running and were pretty good on all three phases of the game, so that was exciting,” Essler said.
Field position was a major part of the game, as well as time of possession, Essler said. He liked the fact that he was able to get a lot of the other kids on the team into the game once the Knights put it out of reach.
“Everybody who dressed today played, and there were a couple of guys where this was the first time they ever got into a varsity game, and so the idea that we’re keeping some kids fresh for next week but also getting some guys a chance to play who normally don’t get to, that’s a lot of fun, too,” he said.
Essler learned after the game that Rogers defeated Elk River in a same-time semifinal contest. The rematch takes place tomorrow night at Rogers under Friday night lights at 7 p.m. This time, a trip to the state tournament hangs in the balance.
“It’ll be fun. It’ll be a lot of fun,” he said.
Essler felt the team could have made a few more plays to win the conference title.
Come Friday, STMA gets a second chance.