Junior running back Mike Stern scored four rushing touchdowns to lead undefeated St. Croix Lutheran to a 32-21 victory over Belle Plaine on Saturday in the Class 3A quarterfinals at Lakeville North High School.
The tandem of Stern and senior running back Dan Rust combined for more than 230 yards on the ground in the second half.
"If we didn't have the running game, we wouldn't have won that game," said Stern, who scored touchdowns on runs of 2, 7, 3 and 5 yards. Three of his touchdowns came in the second half.
The Crusaders (11-0) started the scoring in the second quarter with an 80-yard drive that took just over five minutes, capped by Stern scoring from 2 yards out for a 7-0 lead. They took a 13-7 halftime lead when junior Stephen Kletscher ran 29 yards for a touchdown in the final minute.
Turnovers nearly cost the Crusaders. They drove down the field to open the second half but fumbled in the red zone. On the next play, the Tigers (9-3) connected for an 82-yard touchdown on a pass from quarterback Carsen Ladd to Jon Schmidt for a 14-13 lead.
"You never try to fumble the ball, but you just have to keep trying your hardest," Rust said.
But the Crusaders scored the next two touchdowns, regaining the lead 1:35 later thanks to a 68-yard Rust run and one of Stern's scores. They went up for good 26-14 early in the fourth quarter.