Sura, Packers hold off Pioneers

• SOUTH ST. PAUL 16, HILL- MURRAY 7: The Packers proved superior in Saturday's battle of Classic Suburban Conference unbeatens, relying on a consistent running game and stifling defense to get the job done against the Pioneers.

The Packers' streak of 14 scoreless quarters came to an end, but Hill-Murray is certainly a worthy adversary.

With new coach Brooks Bollinger at the helm, the Pioneers scattered passes among a reliable running game. Bollinger has three good backs to rotate and was able to establish a effective slant route against the South St. Paul defensive backs. But the Packers' defensive unit was able to limit Hill-Murray to only a few big-yardage plays.

"We needed to stop the run first," Packers coach Chad Sexauer said. "It was a good situation for us; we're solid defensively, and we played well."

Hill-Murray had a chance to tie the score late in the fourth quarter, but quarterback Zach LaValle's pass to Michael Alada -- wide open on a slant route -- sailed high and was intercepted.

The Packers drained precious time from the clock, then punted the ball to Hill-Murray's 1-yard line. Hill-Murray tried running the ball to gain some maneuvering room, but Sexauer's solid defensive front clamped down and recorded a safety, extending the Packers' lead to nine points and effectively ending the afternoon contest.

The least glamorous job in high school football might belong to the "other" running backs on South St. Paul's roster. Senior back Sam Sura stole the show once again, rushing 40 times for 192 yards and a 9-yard touchdown, and routinely dragged defenders down the field with him. Quarterback Harrison Rund added the other touchdown on a 1-yard run.



• EAGLE INVITATIONAL: Blaine entered the talent-rich 16-team Apple Valley tournament as the sixth-ranked squad in Class 3A, but without a real signature victory. In the span of about four hours, the Bengals picked up a pair.

The team knocked off No. 1-ranked Lakeville North 27-25, 28-26 in the semifinals, then channeled that momentum to defeat No. 2 Bloomington Jefferson 25-15, 25-18 for the championship.

"It shows what the girls on this team are capable of," Bengals coach Celeste Gorman said. "There isn't anything that can get in the way."

The Bengals scored the final six points of the first game and the first six points of the second against the Jaguars to set the tone in the championships match. Sophomore middle blocker Lydia Dimke notched three of her five service aces in that six-point run to open the second game.

She was also huge at the net and put the capper on the match with a dump-kill over Jefferson's front line.

"We were definitely underdogs coming into this tournament," Dimke said. "I think we really made a statement for ourselves."