ST. ANSGAR — All season long, St. Ansgar carried a chip on its shoulder because some people outside the program believed there would be a falloff after last year’s trip to the Class A semifinals. Proving those people wrong was one of their main motivators this year.
With a chance Friday night to get back to the UNI-Dome in their Class A quarterfinal game vs. defending state champion Gladbrook-Reinbeck, the Saints brought their A-game.
Behind the three-pronged rushing attack of Dayton Smith, Jack Sievert and Josh Van Vliet, the ninth-ranked Saints avenged last year’s semifinal loss to the seventh-ranked Rebels as they rolled to a satisfying 35-7 victory.
“It’s a great feeling,” Van Vliet said after Friday’s win. “It’s more the fact that no one thought we’d be here right now. There’s a lot of people – even people around St. Ansgar – who were saying they’re not going to be as good as the last class and they’re not going to get this far because we basically lost everybody.”
The Saints had all their pieces working on Friday night.
Dayton Smith got the scoring started in the first quarter on a 15-yard touchdown run to put them up 7-0.
Gladbrook-Reinbeck struck back as the first quarter expired when quarterback Hunter Lott hit Walker Thede on a 35-yard fly route to tie the game 7-7.
Then came a play in the second quarter that turned the game for the Rebels when Lott, who also plays on defense, went down with a leg injury and he was out for the rest of the game. From there, the G-R offense was never able to fire up again.
“We have a lot of guys we trust subbing and coming in, but it just changes,” G-R coach John Olson said. “You lose player like that it changes a lot of stuff, but this was too good of a team to overcome stuff like that.”
On the other side, St. Ansgar’s offense kept rolling.
The Saints tacked on 14 more points in the second quarter on touchdown runs by Smith and Van Vliet to take a 21-7 lead into halftime. Sievert and Smith added a touchdown run apiece in the second half for good measure, and the party was on in St. Ansgar.
Smith led the way with a game-high 185 yards on 25 carries, Sievert rushed 20 times for 156 yards, and Van Vliet added 98 yards on 20 carries. The Saints out-gained the Rebels 454-173.
“We’ve been underdogs all year it seems like, and now that we’re here … well, we’re the only ones who thought we’d be here and it feels even better because of that,” Smith said.
Now, the playoff takes the Saints down to Cedar Falls next Friday to face Hudson at the UNI-Dome. For now, though, they get to enjoy a year’s worth of hard work.
“I think we’ve gotten better each year and I’m really proud of the effort,” St. Ansgar coach Drew Clevenger said. “They’ve had that lunch-pail mentality, they come to practice each day trying to get better and they made a lot of growth over the course of the year so I’m very proud of them.”