St. Thomas got off to a slow start Friday night in Osseo but relied on a deep backfield to outrun Elk River in their Class 5A quarterfinal game, winning 30-7.
"We just had to calm down," St. Thomas head coach Dave Ziebarth said, "and not worry so much about getting fancy. We just run right at them. We did that, and we had control of the game."
The Elks finished the season with a 3-5 record but pulled off three convincing upsets in the section tournament. They weren't about to let the Cadets off without a fight.
Elk River had a size advantage on the line of scrimmage. But St. Thomas boasts impressive speed on defense and was able to swarm the deceptive Elks rushes as soon as the Cadets figured out who was carrying the ball.
Denis Bardashevskiy finished with 104 yards for the Elks. As a team, the Cadets ran for 392 yards.
"We played very well," Ziebarth said. "In the first half we kind of shot ourselves in the foot a little bit, and we had a couple of long drives that we didn't finish."
The Cadets struggled with some poor luck in the first half, turning the ball over twice and losing chances to build the lead. Late in the second quarter, St. Thomas had a pass tipped into the air and picked off by Elk River's Terry Hadden, who returned it 63 yards. That set up a Nick Johnson touchdown run, the Elks' only score of the game.
In the second half, St. Thomas relied on heavy doses of Pat McFadden, who finished the game with 142 yards and two scores. Mario Bognanno punched in a 1-yard score for the Cadets, and Nick Waldvogel broke free for an 83-yard touchdown.
The Cadets advance to the semifinal round and will play Owatonna next Friday in the Metrodome.