All good things must come to an end, and after winning their last 29 games the Owatonna Huskies run at becoming state champions for a third straight year came to an end at the hands of the St. Thomas Academy Cadets. The Cadets used a stingy defense, a momentum-shifting special teams play, and a perseverant offense to win 21-0 in the state quarterfinals on Saturday, Nov. 9 in Woodbury.
Saturday’s state quarterfinal game between the two schools was a rematch, of sorts, from last year’s Prep Bowl showdown, which the Huskies came out on top 14-3.
Owatonna Head Coach Jeff Williams said his defense was able to stifle the Cadets until late in the second quarter.
“They didn’t do anything in the first half until we gave them the short field and that was obviously very unfortunate,” he said.
The short field was caused by a blocked punt that the Cadets recovered at the Huskies’ seven-yard line. St. Thomas scored its first touchdown on a three-yard run three plays later.
On the blocked punt, Williams said, “There was penetration where there ought not have been and that happens every once in a while.”
However, that hadn’t happened to Owatonna in quite a while as Williams said the last time the Huskies had a punt blocked was back in 2009.
“Part of the deal too is we don’t punt very often. The last two weeks now you start to see tougher competition and you got to punt more frequently,” he said.
After both teams punted frequently in the first half, the Cadets held a 7-0 lead at halftime.
Williams hoped that the Huskies’ defense would keep the score that way and give their offense an opportunity to tie the game.
“I wanted the opportunity to have the ball with a chance to win, obviously late in the fourth quarter that just wasn’t there for us,” he said.
Having a chance to win in the fourth quarter wasn’t there because St. Thomas’ offense was able to move the ball better than they had in the first half.
“You have to at least take it into consideration the fact that they had the ball for nine minutes of the third quarter. Obviously, a couple penalties helped extend it, but we couldn’t get off the field,” Williams said. “Maybe they [Owatonna’s defense] were a little run down, a little bit tired. We’re asking a few of those defensive linemen/offensive linemen to go both ways and they definitely started to take over the line of scrimmage at that point.”
The Cadets exploited their advantage at the line of scrimmage by scoring two rushing touchdowns in the second half.
Meanwhile, the Huskies’ offense was held in check by St. Thomas’ defense.
“Their defensive line was very tough, very aggressive. Their linebackers were very tough and in order for us to get holes we’ve got to be able to get two hats on a defensive lineman and then come off to a linebacker late. Their defensive line was so aggressive we weren’t able to come off on their linebackers very frequently. Their linebackers were good,” he said.
He thinks the Cadets’ quality front seven was one of the reasons they were able to consistently harass Owatonna quarterback Brayden Truelson in the second half.
However, Williams mentioned that a couple other reasons were it was getting late in the game and with the Huskies trailing the Cadets knew a pass was coming.
“I think our kids started to get a little bit tired. We were having to pass more frequently and so they’re able to pin their ears back and come after us. We didn’t have too many other options at that point and they can come after you if you don’t have a real threat to run it,” he said.
Despite losing, he was proud of the contributions from his team, especially the seniors.
“A lot of those guys played a role in the 2017 championship. Obviously, a lot of returning starters from the 2018 team so I think they had high expectations,” he said.
Even though they fell short of their expectations, Williams said the Huskies can still hold their heads high.
“That was a very good St. Thomas team. We consider ourselves one of the best teams in the state. I think we can still hang our hat on that, we just weren’t as good as St. Thomas today,” he said. “I don’t think that’s anything to apologize for. They were very, very good today.”
This year marked Owatonna’s ninth state tournament trip with three titles, including championships in the past two seasons.
Cadets 21, Huskies 0
Owatonna 0 0 0 0— 0
St. Thomas 0 7 7 7— 21