BRITT — In St. Ansgar's most important regular season game Friday night, it was an unlikely suspect who carried the load in a crucial second half.
The Saints boast one of the top rushers in the district in Dayton Smith, who is also on the verge of becoming the school’s all-time leading rusher. They also have two options off of Smith with quarterback Collin Kramer and senior Josh Van Vliet. The trio had combined for 1,697 yards and 21 touchdowns coming in to Friday’s game.
Leave it to sophomore Jack Sievert to provide a lift in a big spot, though.
Sievert rushed for 87 yards on 11 carries and scored the go-ahead touchdown with 2:11 to play in the Saints’ 21-20 victory which locked up a fourth straight district title.
“It’s just doing my job and making sure I don’t let anyone down,” Sievert said.
With the Saints struggling to find big plays in the run game in an 8-8 first half, the coaches went into the locker room with a plan to get Sievert, who had two carries for 15 yards in the first half, more involved.
The change was apparent right out of the gate as Sievert helped carry the load in a pivotal drive in the third quarter which was ultimately halted by West Hancock on fourth and goal from the 1.
Nevertheless, Sievert proved he was capable of handling what the West Hancock defense was throwing at the Saints.
“We thought maybe we could get our belly game going a little bit,” St. Ansgar coach Drew Clevenger said. “Obviously, they’re keying in on Dayton, so we thought that second guy through we could get going and we were pretty consistent with it. Not as consistent as we like, but enough that we could get positive plays and keep the chains moving.”
As West Hancock turned that fourth-down stop into six points at the other end, St. Ansgar needed a play to help keep it going, and Sievert provided again when he hauled in a 39-yard pass from Kramer that set up a go-ahead score two plays later.
Sievert, who had 248 rushing yards and four touchdowns coming in, finished the second half with 72 yards rushing and the one big catch.
“Jack’s going to be a good one,” Clevenger said. “He’s only a sophomore and he’s made great strides this year and he’s a tough kid. He answered the bell.”
In the grand scheme of things, it proved the Saints are capable of playing in the big game, in addition to performing under pressure with a wealth of options.
But what does it mean as St. Ansgar gets set to make its 12th straight appearance in the postseason?
“It gives us good experience going into the postseason and it’s an eye-opener for the teams we’ll have to play in the playoffs,” Sievert said.