St. Thomas Academy running back Brendan McFadden padded his program record for touchdowns in a season as the Cadets dispatched Bemidji 33-21 on Saturday in the Class 5A semifinals.
Touchdowns No. 35, 36 and 37 for McFadden helped the Cadets advance to face defending state champion and top-ranked Owatonna in the Prep Bowl at 4 p.m. Saturday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
McFadden, a senior, finished with 216 yards rushing for No. 2-ranked St. Thomas Academy (12-0), highlighted by touchdown runs of 32 and 71 yards in the third quarter.
"He's been fantastic for us all year long," said first-year Cadets coach Dan O'Brien, a longtime Gophers assistant. "Our entire offense runs through Brendan McFadden. Teams loaded up the box on him all year long, and he still found ways to get his yards."
Bemidji coach Troy Hendricks called McFadden "a special kid. He passes the eye test and he runs extremely hard."
Run-heavy St. Thomas Academy led 13-7 at halftime thanks to a screen pass to tight end Thomas Odegard. He picked up 43 yards to the Bemidji 9-yard line. McFadden later scored on a short fourth-down run and added the two-point conversion.
The touchdown late in the first half came after No. 5-ranked Bemidji (10-2) squandered a chance to build a bigger lead and exert pressure.
Leading 7-5, the Lumberjacks tackled the St. Thomas Academy punter for a 13-yard loss at the Cadets 25-yard line. But the Cadets defense, which posted five shutouts this season, rose up and stopped the Lumberjacks on downs.
"That was a momentum opportunity for us, and to get no points was frustrating," Hendricks said.
The St. Thomas Academy special teams keyed the team's initial 5-0 lead. John Copeland nailed a 28-yard field goal. The Cadets' next possession ended with a Ben Reppenhagen punt to the Lumberjacks 5-yard line.
Pinned down, Bemidji quarterback Jacob Beberg was sacked in the end zone for a safety by Peter Holmes and Garrison Solliday.
Bemidji's fortunes briefly changed as McFadden fumbled and the Lumberjacks took over at the Cadets 29-yard line. The Lumberjacks converted on fourth-and-9 to the 16-yard line. Three plays later, Beberg hit Kade Peterson for a touchdown and a 7-5 lead.