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Bucks can't keep up with Lowell offense

No. 1 Devils outscore St. Paul football team by 38 points in second half of quarterfinal loss


by: GARY ALLEN - St. Paul sophomore Tyler Smith rushed for a team-high 118 yards and two touchdowns in Fridays quarterfinal loss to the No. 1 Lowell Red Devils. Smith, pictured above in the Buckaroos 76-40 loss to Lowell in the third week of the season, was the teams most efficient running back in 2013. Behind the blocking of Zach Adams, Max Coleman, Joe Hiller, David Elias and Keenan Wood, Smith piled on almost 2,000 rushing yards and scored more than 20 touchdowns this year.After the first 24 minutes of play Friday night, the St.?Paul football seemed to have accomplished the impossible in stopping the best offense in the state.

The Buckaroos had played the No. 1 Lowell Red Devils to a 22-22 tie in the first half and managed to effectively slow down a team that had scored 76 points against the Bucks earlier in the season.

But when the third quarter started, things began to unravel.

St. Paul’s vaunted rushing game stalled in the second half and the Lowell offensive machine took control to lead the Devils to a 60-22 victory in the quarterfinals of the 2013 1A football playoffs.

“They’re a very good football team, and we just weren’t able to slow them down the entire football game,” said St. Paul head coach Tony Smith. “When we weren’t able to score and match them for scores, then we got into trouble.”

The Bucks were able to find success in the first half by sticking to a game plan of dominating possession of the ball to keep the Devils’ offense on the sideline. St. Paul controlled the ball for more than 18 minutes in the first two quarters, pounding away with the running back duo of Tyler Smith and Fernando Dela Cerda.

On St.?Paul’s first possession, the team chipped away on an 11-play drive that took almost five minutes off the clock and finished with a four-yard touchdown run by Dela Cerda to make it a 6-0 game.

Lowell scored on their next two drives, but the Bucks continued to take a methodical approach to offense.

“We thought if we could do that, then we would have a chance to be in the game,” said Smith.

The Bucks punted on their next two drives, but found success in the second quarter.

On their first possession of the second quarter, St.?Paul drove 86 yards on 10 plays, capping the drive with an 11-yard run by Tyler Smith for a touchdown. Smith scored on the ensuing two-point conversion to tie the score at 14-14.

Lowell responded with an 81-yard touchdown on their second play of their next drive, but the Bucks were quick to answer back. Quarterback Carson Smith connected on a 53-yard touchdown pass to David Elias to knot the game at 22-22 heading into the half.

“In any game, especially against the team the quality of Lowell, your ability to run the ball and keep the ball away from them is very important, and we were able to both of those things in the first half,” said Tony Smith.

But Elias’ touchdown reception was the team’s final score of the game, as the Devils controlled the second half after scoring on their first two drives of the quarter to go up 38-22.

The deficit forced St. Paul to turn to its passing game more often. Lowell was able to successfully defend the Bucks’ attempts to air it out, particularly on a pair of Buckaroo drives that ended due to interceptions.

At the same time, the Devils found repeated success on offense in the second half, scoring on each of the five times they controlled the ball to end the game.

“We got down by two scores, and at that point, your ability to continue to run the football becomes a lot less just to stay in the game,” said Tony Smith. “So we had to throw the football a little bit, and that made it tougher on us.”

The loss closed the book on a Buckaroo season in which the team won its fifth consecutive conference title and reached the quarterfinals of the state tournament for the seventh time in eight years.

The Bucks strung together a five-game win streak leading into Friday’s game against Lowell, with much of the credit going to the team’s younger players on offense.

“Throughout the season and at the end of the season, a sophomore-freshman-sophomore was our quarterback and our two running backs,” Tony Smith said, referring to Carson Smith,?Tyler Smith and Dela Cerda. “The same thing defensively, we played a lot of young kids too.”

Tony Smith credited his team’s seniors for providing leadership and helping to bridge the gap between last year’s team that reached the state championship and this year’s crop of upcoming athletes.

“We have good returning juniors, and there are good returning freshmen and sophomore skill kids,” he said. “The potential is there, and that’s kind of a scary word sometimes, but we’re definitely able to be very good in the future.”