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Buckaroos remain perfect, return to semifinals to face Camas Valley in rematch of 2012 title game

PMG FILE PHOTO: PHIL HAWKINS - St. Paul senior Gianni Grasso scored two touchdowns and finished with 105 all-purpose yards in the Buckaroos 56-6 victory over Days Creek in the 1A State Quarterfinals.The St. Paul football team's dominant season continued after the No. 1 Buckaroos eliminated Days Creek 56-6 in the 2019 1A State Quarterfinals on Friday.

Using a suffocating defense and a 32-point second quarter, the Bucks (11-0) advanced to the semifinals for the third consecutive year.

Senior quarterback T.J. Crawford led the Buckaroos with five touchdowns, going 6-of-9 for 216 yards and three scores through the air along with 27 yards and a pair of touchdowns on the ground.

Days Creek (9-2) came out strong against the Bucks in the final game of the season at the St. Paul Rodeo Grounds. St. Paul was held to three-and-out on its first possession, and the Wolves followed with an 11-play drive that ate up nearly half the opening period.

But the drive ended at mid-field with a fourth-down stop by St. Paul sophomore Bryce Williams and senior Reed Overfield. The Bucks immediately answered on the next play when Crawford connected with senior Gianni Grasso for a 60-yard touchdown pass to put the team up 8-0.

The two teams found no traction on their ensuing possessions.

Days Creek was driven backwards on their next two drives, while St. Paul was likewise held in check. The Bucks broke through to to open the second quarter when senior Mitchell Curtis caught a 59-yard pass from Crawford to set up a seven-yard touchdown run for the quarterback on the next play.

St. Paul's next three drives of the quarter went largely the same. Curtis found paydirt on a 47-yard touchdown run to make it 20-0, and Williams pulled down an interception at midfield, returning it to the 12-yard line where Martinez ran it in to lift the Bucks to 26-0.

Another Days Creek three-and-out led to another quick score from the Bucks, again by Curtis, who scored from 32 yards out.

St. Paul completed its five-touchdown quarter with 16 seconds left until halftime when Crawford found teammate Hayden Scott for a 40-yard score to make it a 40-0 game heading into the break.

Senior Saul Martinez scored St. Paul's next touchdown of the night to put the Bucks above the 45-point margin and start the running clock. Days Creek responded with its lone touchdown drive of the night, going 75 yards in 11 plays to score on a one-yard run from quarterback Gerritt Wentland.

Grasso capped the evening with a 17-yard touchdown run to bring the game to its final margin of victory.

Against Days Creek, St. Paul amassed one of its most well-balanaced offensive games of the season, with five players combining for 216 rushing yards, none of whom eclipsed the 100-yard barrier.

Curtis led the way with 83 yards and a touchdown on eight attempts. The senior running backs also had a team-high 101 receiving yards and a touchdown on three catches from Crawford.

Grasso added 55 rushing yards and a score on five carries, as well as a 60-yard touchdown catch. Scott finished with 55 yards on two receptions, and Martinez added 40 yards and a score on seven carries.

Defensively, Curtis led the team with 14 tackles, while Overfield added 11 takedowns to go along with a pair of sacks.

The victory returned St. Paul to the semifinals, where the Bucks will take on the No. 4 Camas Valley Hornets (9-0) in a contest between undefeated teams.

The last time the two teams played against each other was in the 2012 1A State Championship, where the Hornets defeated the Buckaroos 24-8.

The 2019 1A State Semifinals will be hosted at Cottage Grove High School on Saturday at noon.

The winner will advance to the championship game on Nov. 30 to face either No. 2 Adrian/Jordan Valley (11-0) or No. 3 Crane (10-1).

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