Compliments paid for a flashy touchdown run do not work as currency in blue-collar South St. Paul.
Senior quarterback Dan Pietruszewski bulled his way to three scores as the Packers defeated rival Simley 35-20. The Friday night highlight: A 26-yard scoring run late in the first half that started left, turned right, then dipped and dodged diagonally to the end zone.
Blunt and powerful. Just like the Lions' Club cannon fired from the northeast corner of Ettinger Field after each Packers' score.
For a Week 3 game, a lot was at stake for the rival programs. Many Spartans and Packers grew up playing sports with and against each other. The school buildings sit six miles apart. And both programs are on the upswing.
Simley (1-2), playing in Class 5A last fall, went to its first Prep Bowl. South St. Paul made the final eight in Class 4A for the third time in four seasons.
This fall, however, Simley dropped to Class 4A, meaning a Section 3 playoff rematch with No. 8-ranked South St. Paul (2-1) will be possible.
So Friday's loss, while not crushing, staggered the Spartans. This wasn't a must-win game. A want-like-heck-to-win game?
Simley coach Rex King sought to lessen South St. Paul's identity as his program's "kryptonite." The Spartans last defeated the Packers in 2008.
"We have to figure out a way to beat these guys because ultimately they're the hurdle in front of us if we want to go back to the state tournament," King said.
South St. Paul went ahead 21-0 with three consecutive second-quarter touchdowns drives. Senior running back Anthony Perez scored twice and Pietruszewski once with 1:29 to go before halftime.
But the Packers weren't finished. Pietruszewski's second scoring run, this one in third quarter, hurt Simley.
"You can't spot a good team 28 points," King said. "They're too well-coached and too good. But at least we fought in the second half."
Simley senior quarterback Michael Busch, a youth hockey linemate of Pietruszewski's, ran for a 62-yard touchdown and threw a 12-yard TD pass to Jake Binley on fourth down. South St. Paul's lead was cut to 28-14 in the fourth quarter.
"He's a great athlete," Pietruszewski said of Busch.
A 49-yard run from Pietruszewski — his third touchdown — quelled the comeback. All that remained was talk of a playoff rematch.