CEDAR FALLS — There’s never an easy way to end a season unless you’re the champion. St. Ansgar has gotten painfully close to that moment over the past two years, and each time had their dreams dashed in the semifinals.
In Friday’s Class A semifinal game vs. Hudson, the Pirates shut out the Saints in the second half to send St. Ansgar home with a 41-17 loss.
“Can’t be sad about it. Can’t be sad about ending it here,” St. Ansgar senior Dayton Smith said. “We definitely would’ve liked to been in the finals, but ending here is nothing to be ashamed of.”
It was a tale of two halves for each team Friday morning.
The Saints and Pirates played a tightly contested first quarter as they traded long touchdown runs midway through the quarter — a 51-yard dash by Christian Seres for Hudson and an 82-yard touchdown run by St. Ansgar’s Josh Van Vliet to answer.
The next two drives for each team produced the same result. Seres scored his second touchdown of the first to put Hudson up 14-7 and St. Ansgar had the answer on its next drive when Jack Sievert rumbled in for a 19-yard touchdown run to tie the game.
After a Hudson field goal, the game turned for St. Ansgar in a way. Van Vliet, who was the team’s second-leading rusher coming in, went down with a collarbone injury, forcing the Saints to change a bit about its game plan.
“If we can’t have all three of our pieces moving in the rushing game, it’s a lot harder to have our explosive plays,” Smith said. “All we could do was have our little 5- to 10-yard gains and that wasn’t what we need in the second half.”
St. Ansgar added a field goal of its own to tie the game 17-17 with 1 minute, 47 seconds to play in the first half. Hudson grabbed the momentum for good on the ensuing drive as it marched down the field in seven plays and scored on an 18-yard touchdown pass from Jacob Murray to Al Hageman with 20 seconds left in the half to take a 24-17 lead into the locker room.
“That was a great tone-setter just to get the momentum, and then to keep the momentum, that was one of our goals. We got it and we kept it,” Hudson coach Justin Brekke said. “We were able to execute the two-minute drive and that was awesome, but now we had to do it for 24 more minutes.”
That’s exactly what the Pirates did in the second half as the combination of their running game, passing game, offensive line play, and bend-but-don’t-break defense helped them run away with the game.
Seres finished with a game-high 210 yards rushing for Hudson, and Murray passed for 166.
“We couldn’t get our defense off the field, but to their credit, they made the plays. The got off the ball and we didn’t,” St. Ansgar coach Drew Clevenger said. “We just weren’t able to be as consistent with the ball, and it was a little more two steps forward, one step back in the second half.”
St. Ansgar offense produced throughout the day with 360 total yards, but once it was forced to go to the air, the Saints couldn’t answer the call.
Smith finished off a stellar career with 109 yards on the ground to lead the Saints. Van Vliet added 91 yards of his own and Sievert, a sophomore finished with 53.
“It’s some motivation for next year, but it’s hard to see right now,” Sievert said.