St. Thomas squeaks past North in state tournament quarterfinals

From left, free safety Alex Hallman, and linebackers Andrew Allen and Hugh Burke, all seniors on the St. Thomas Academy Cadets team, block an offensive approach by the North St. Paul Polars during the Class 5A quarterfinal state tournament game Friday, Oct. 30. St. Thomas went on to win in the 7-0 game. (Linda Baumeister/Review)
From left, free safety Alex Hallman, and linebackers Andrew Allen and Hugh Burke, all seniors on the St. Thomas Academy Cadets team, block an offensive approach by the North St. Paul Polars during the Class 5A quarterfinal state tournament game Friday, Oct. 30. St. Thomas went on to win in the 7-0 game. (Linda Baumeister/Review)

Game was scoreless until final 2 minutes

St. Thomas 7 - North 0

After winning eight consecutive football games, the highly successful North High Polars were handed a last-minute, season-ending loss by the St. Thomas Academy Cadets in the Class 5A quarterfinal state tournament game Friday, Oct. 30.

Up until St. Thomas' final drive, which culminated in a touchdown with only 1:25 remaining in the game, the talented North defense had stopped every attempt by the top-seeded Cadets to cross the goal line.

Conversely, the stubborn St. Thomas defense was a stout wall that didn't allow North a point in the 7-0 game played at a neutral site — Woodbury High School.

This was the second time the teams met this season.  Back on Aug. 28 the Cadets dominated the Polars, 35-14. But they faced a very different North team this time around.

A disheartened North coach Eric Longtin was reflective in his comments about the second battle with the Cadets: "It is what it is. It wasn't how we wanted it to end, but it was a great season.

"The kids played their hearts out every game. They played their hearts out in this game. They left it all on the field."

Just as the first half came to a close, the Cadets marched to the Polars' goal line. From less than 1 yard out, a stiff North defense stopped St. Thomas on a fourth-down attempt to score.

Earlier, a North pass attempt to put the ball into the end zone was just off the fingertips of the intended receiver. 

St. Thomas coach Dave Ziebarth, stated, "You know, that was really a great game. The Polars played their hearts out, and we played our hearts out. Both defenses were outstanding."

Ziebarth added, "We moved the ball well today, but we just couldn't finish it up. The last drive was a thing of beauty for us.

"I'm really proud of our kids, and I'm really proud of North St. Paul. That's the best North St. Paul team I've ever seen."  

The last drive was a 10-play, 65-yard effort that ended when St. Thomas workhorse Sean McFadden ran through a large hole 7 yards into the end zone. Kicker Mac Brown added the extra point and that was all the Cadets would need to advance to the tournament's next round.

In the game the Cadets picked up 136 yards on 45 plays. North had 112 yards on 38 calls from scrimmage.

McFadden, a senior, led the way for St. Thomas with 76 yards on 26 carries, while running back Woody Hubbell, also a senior, had five carries and picked up 43 yards.

Running backs Fisayo Oduyemi, a junior, rushed for 29 yards on seven carries, and senior Isaiah Koran went 22 yards on eight carries for North.

The Polars finished their season with a record of 8-3 and made their first state tournament appearance in 17 years.

As he watched the Cadets celebrate their victory, North's Longtin said he was proud of his players and their performance despite the loss. "It was just a great effort tonight. It is just too bad it ended the way it did."

St. Thomas will took its record of 10-1 into the Class 5A semifinal game against Moorhead, 12-0, Nov. 6, at Minnetonka High School.

Wally Wakefield can be reached at wwakefield@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7826.

 

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