St. Paul's run toward the state championship game came up against a sturdy, familiar obstacle on Saturday, Nov. 20. In a rematch with 1A powerhouse Powder Valley, the Bucks once again came up short, this time falling 46-8 after four quarters in Bend.
St. Paul (10-2) was previously defeated by the Badgers (11-1) in a preseason matchup 50-40 on Sept. 17. The second defeat snapped an eight-game winning streak the Bucks built up over the course of the regular season and into the playoffs.
"They were just a much better team on that night, really," St. Paul head coach Tony Smith said. "We didn't play … I don't think it was our play as much as their play. We didn't play awful. Our kids, we had a good week of practice. We played hard. They were just much better than us on that night."
St. Paul's usually sturdy defense gave up 24 first half points to Powder Valley, ceding 218 yards of total offense in the first 24 minutes. On the other side of the field, the Bucks mustered a quick four-play, 77-yard drive that lasted less than a minute. The lone scoring play for St. Paul came when senior quarterback Lance Tuck found junior tight end Warren Rose for a 44-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. Tuck found senior running back Clancy Koch for the 2-point conversion.
When the half came to an end St. Paul trailed 24-8.
In the second half, Powder Valley put up another 22 points to seal the victory and put St. Paul's season to rest.
The Bucks' typically high-powered offense only put together 217 yards of total offense, 158 of which came through the air on 6-of-19 passing. Tuck found four different receivers, including Rose, for the touchdown. Koch caught three passes for 95 yards, sophomore Bryce Williams caught one pass for 12 yards and sophomore Ralph Pohlschneider caught one pass for seven yards.
On the ground St. Paul had 59 yards, with Williams running 11 times for 38 yards.
The defense was led by Pohlschneider, who recorded 11 solo tackles, and Williams, who tallied eight total tackles. Koch and junior Carter Milroy each recorded seven tackles. Rose had 2.5 tackles for a loss totaling 6 yards.
Pohlschneider was named St. Paul's Player of the Game.
St. Paul's season was one of consistently strong performances, with the lone blips coming against Powder Valley. Otherwise, the No. 3-ranked team in the state was an offensive buzzsaw, something Smith attributed to the hard work and tone set by the returning players.
"I think as an entire group that the kids did an amazing job of persevering through all that and then really a ton of improvement during the season to get to that point," Smith said. "If you go all the way back to pre-COVID, coming into fall of 2019, there is a season that we lost, we would have just had two returning players on that team.
"For those kids to work and improve throughout that time period and go through all that and then be able to achieve at that level," Smith continued, "that's pretty phenomenal."
While St. Paul won most of the games they played, Smith points to the sixth game of the season against Waldport as a real turning point for the program. In that Thursday night game, St. Paul defeated a playoff caliber opponent 80-36.
"If you put together this spring and then those preseason games leading up to that, that was really the first time where it looked like we started to get it and we're starting to play well," Smith said.
Smith also lauded his five seniors for their leadership roles in the 2021 season: Tuck, Koch, Williams and linemen Brody Schindler and Andy Izquierdo.
"Just outstanding young men, every single one of them," Smith said. "All of them good kids. I mean, just really, really good young men, good students (who) work hard, great leaders, very unselfish. Just set a great example for the expectations of our program because that was the other thing that you kind of lose when you go through COVID and all the other stuff is just the culture of your program. You don't lose it completely because you got those kids like those five … you have those kids returning."
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