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The explosive Buckaroo run game and staunch defense were deciding factors in quarterfinal victory

WOODBURN, Ore. — St. Paul is headed to the state semifinals.

The Bucks (10-1) punched their ticket to the 1A 8-man football final four with a dominant 44-6 win over Crane (8-3) on Friday, Nov. 12. With the win, St. Paul stretches its win streak to eight straight games.

The game took place at nearby Woodburn High School, just 11.5 miles and roughly 20 minutes down the road for the Buckaroos. Crane, meanwhile, made the 5 hour, 25 minute drive some 307 miles to get to the clash of top 10 1A teams.

According to St. Paul head coach Tony Smith, St. Paul got the job done by watching film and knowing when to adjust their schemes on the field.

"They run a bunch of different formations, and we're at a point in the season where we're pretty good at making all of those adjustments," Smith said. "We have a smart group of kids, and we've just really improved in that respect during the season."

St. Paul wasted little time in getting on the board. At 7:32 of the first quarter, St. Paul senior running back Clancy Koch ran a counter up the middle and bounced out to the left for the first touchdown of the night. A failed 2-point conversion left the score 6-0 for the Bucks.

Crane responded with a lengthy drive, giving the ball to junior running backs Kelton Dunten and Jake Doman for the remainder of the half, advancing as deep into St. Paul territory as the Bucks 35-yard line. St. Paul's defense and penalties stalled the Mustangs' drive, ultimately resulting in a bad punt snap recovered by St. Paul on the Crane 35-yard line.

PMG PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - St. Paul's Lance Tuck scrambles for the first down and more against Crane on Friday, Nov. 12.

From there it took just three plays for St. Paul to score, this time through the air as senior quarterback Lance Tuck found sophomore tight end Ralph Pohlschneider for the 20-yard-touchdown pass. Senior Bryce Williams swept right and converted on the ensuing 2-point conversion, and St. Paul led 14-0.

Crane got on the board in the next drive, putting together a seven-play drive that resulted in senior Mitch Clark running up the middle for a 2-yard touchdown. A failed 2-point conversion for the Mustangs left the score at 14-6 at the 7:48 mark of the second quarter.

St. Paul's offense was unable to get anything going in the next possession, going three-and-out by the 6:25 mark. Crane once again began to drive down the field on the Bucks defense, grinding the ball on run play after run play. It was after eight plays that St. Paul was able to seize momentum, when Pohlschneider intercepted Crane's Clark with 2:10 to go in the second half.

From there the Buckaroos put together a 10-play, 65-yard drive that culminated in a Koch touchdown run from three yards out as the clock expired on the half. With a successful 2-point conversion, St. Paul led 22-6 at the half.

"We were consistent on offense," Smith said. "I don't think we had a turnover, if I'm not mistaken, and they had a couple. That was a big difference in the score right before the half. Kids did a great job in the two-minute, and that was a backbreaker. They came down and scored, and we felt it was going back and forth in the first half."

If the first half was back and forth, the second half was all St. Paul, in particular St. Paul's Bryce Williams. Coming out of the half, Williams scored St. Paul's next three touchdowns: one from six yards out on a run up the middle at 9:00 of the third quarter; and one on a 60-yard breakaway up the middle where he outran the Mustangs defense.

"I thought Bryce Williams was amazing," Smith said. "That's the hardest he's ran. He did an awesome job."

PMG PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - St. Paul's Bryce Williams scored three touchdowns for the Buckaroos in the quarterfinal victory over Crane.

The third touchdown for Williams came at 11:35 of the fourth quarter where he once again ran the ball up the middle, this time from 19-yards out. When the dust settled at the end of the fourth quarter, St. Paul earned the 44-6 victory.

The win over Crane sets St. Paul up with a rematch against No. 2 seed Powder Valley (10-1) on Saturday, Nov. 20. Powder Valley won the first matchup on Friday, Sept. 17 by 50-40. In the spring season, Powder Valley got the win over St. Paul 44-20. Now with both teams vying for a spot in the 1A state finals, the stakes couldn't be higher. According to coach Smith, the preparation doesn't change despite an earlier run in against the Badgers.

"The approach is the same. We try to be real consistent with anybody as far as what we do on Monday and Tuesday, and what a normal week looks like," Smith said. "The extra day is nice as far as rest for our team. But as for them, playing teams twice during the season is always difficult and we haven't solved that one yet. But I know we're looking forward to it. I think the kids will be real excited about it."

The game will be played at Powder Valley High School, with the kickoff time to be determined.


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