Saint Thomas Academy started out slow, but finished strong to punch its ticket to the state football tournament with a 45-0 win over Two Rivers in the Section 3AAAAA title game on November 4.

The Cadets had drubbed the Warriors earlier this fall and there was little to suggest that the two would meet again in the section title game, since Two Rivers had logged only one regular-season win. But the sixth-seeded Warriors caught fire in the playoffs, beating No. 3 Hastings 33-28 in the opening round and then No. 2 Bloomington Kennedy 32-28 in the semifinals to earn another crack at top-ranked STA.

Cadet coach Dan O’Brien said his staff and players were taking nothing for granted in the section final. “We were all concerned,” he said about the Warriors. “They were a lot better and we were all concerned.”

STA football
STA junior Savion Hart eludes Warrior tacklers on his way to the first score of the game. The Cadets upended Two Rivers 45-0 for the Section 3AAAAA title on November 4. Photo by Brad Stauffer

STA (10-0) earned its fifth consecutive section crown and is making its 26th trip to state. It will face Mahtomedi (9-1) in the first round of the state Class AAAAA tournament at noon Saturday, November 12, at Woodbury High School. The state semifinals and final will be played on November 18 and December 3, respectively, at U.S. Bank Stadium.

In the section final, the Cadets were back on their heels a little bit against the Warriors early on. Using an effective running attack, Two Rivers dominated possession during the first quarter, in which STA was able to run only four plays from scrimmage. But it didn’t pay off in any points for the Warriors, and the Cadets were able to score the period’s only touchdown on a 40-yard run by junior Savion Hart. From then on, the Cadets pulled away. By halftime, the score was 21-0 in favor of STA.

The Cadets played at high levels during the game on both offense and defense. Senior running backs Love Adebayo and Hart combined for five touchdowns in the game. Senior Jordan Wold caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from junior Maximus Sims, who threw for two scores.

O’Brien was not one to overlook his offensive line as he singled out the play of junior tackles Teddy Knapp and Brendan Gerber. Gerber had missed time since the sixth week of the season with a separated shoulder.


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STA junior kicker Declan Wilson booted six extra points and one 36-yard field goal in the game.

The Cadets defense was much improved against Two Rivers, O’Brien said. He was especially encouraged by the play of his defensive backfield, which he said sprung some leaks during the team’s 55-19 win over Apple Valley in the section semifinals. That total was the most points scored against STA this season. The Cadets have posted two shutouts and had allowed just 70 total points going into state.

Cadet coach Dan O’Brien said his staff and players were taking nothing for granted in the section final. “We were all concerned,” he said about the Warriors. “They were a lot better and we were all concerned.”

“Our defensive backs were a lot better in this game,” O’Brien said about the section final. “We didn’t allow any big plays. We know we have a good group back there, and they showed it in this game.”

Sticking out in the defensive backfield was senior safety Jake Borman, whose two interceptions against Two Rivers gave him nine picks for the year, a new school record. Borman also tied a school career interception record.

The team’s defensive backs had been beset by injuries this season. O’Brien said the team’s “best cover guy,” senior cornerback Mark Rogalski, missed several games with ankle issues, but has returned to the lineup. Senior safety Anthony Bickford separated his shoulder in the Apple Valley game, but it’s hoped that he can play in the state tournament.

All year long, the defense has been anchored by senior linebacker Jackson Cercioglu, who has been the team’s leading tackler with 45 going into state.

The Cadets were looking forward to playing Mahtomedi in the first round of the state tournament. These two clubs know each other well, with STA having defeated the Zephyrs 28-14 earlier this fall. That margin represents the closest an opponent had come to the Cadets this season. “The final score was not indicative of what kind of game it was,” O’Brien said.

Both teams sport lethal ground attacks, and STA will be relying on being able to get more mileage out of backs Adebayo and Hart, while the defense tries to slow down the Zephyrs.

Mahtomedi defeated Central 20-0 in the Section 4AAAAA final on November 4 to earn its chance for another shot at STA in the state tournament. Mahtomedi won that game despite leading by only 6-0 at halftime. However, the Zephyr defense was stout throughout.

Third-seeded Central made it to the section final by defeating North Saint Paul 36-22 in the opener and then second-seeded Highland Park 20-7 in the semifinals.

— Bill Wagner


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