ST. PAUL — Setting the tone for St. Paul's home opener versus Monroe, junior running back Justin Herberger broke free for a 67-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage Friday night at the rodeo grounds.
The Buckaroos kept the pedal to the medal in the first half, jumping out to a 28-0 lead and, despite a strong second-half push from the Dragons, coasted to a 42-12 victory.
With a 40-0 blowout win at Heppner already in the books, St. Paul has set the bar pretty high for the 2017 season, even if the team's mantra is simply to go 1-0 each week.
"We're just focused on the next game and want to keep going 1-0," junior Jaidyn Jackson said.
If Herberger, who ran for three touchdowns, was the hero offensively, Jackson was the star on the other side of the ball, grabbing two of the Bucks' three interceptions, both which set up St. Paul touchdowns.
Sophomore Mitchell Curtis, who was making his first start, picked off the other to set up the Bucks' fourth TD of the first half, which just happened to be a 48-yard touchdown strike from quarterback Holden Smith to Jackson.
"The DBs played very well. Jaidyn, Raleigh almost had another interception and has played real well," coach Tony Smith said. "We had a starter out and Mitchell did a good job at the other corner."
Smith was effective passing the ball in the first half, completing all four of his passes, including two for touchdowns. He finished 5 for 8 passing for 107 yards.
The offense struggled at times in the second half, often serving as its own worst enemy with penalties, while Monroe (1-1) also sold out against the run.
"We want to be able to run the ball and throw play action passes and were able to do that in the first half, for the most part," Coach Smith said. "I think we got a little conservative as coaches and then our kids got conservative and we didn't play very well. They did some different stuff that we hadn't seen on film from the first game at all, so that gave us some problems. But it's an experience. It's what you go through."
At the same time, the Dragons began to have some success running the ball up the middle. Monroe opened the second half with an eight-play, 64 yard drive to get on the board, but the extra point failed leaving the score at 28-6.
St. Paul (2-0) promptly responded just three plays later with Herberger's third rushing touchdown, this one measuring 50 yards, to make it 35-6 with 5:58 remaining in the third quarter.
Although the Dragons seemed to have momentum on their side after scoring on their second drive of the third quarter, time wasn't on their side. The Bucks also settled in a bit defensively, forcing a turnover on downs early in the fourth quarter.
Herberger, who had 10 carries for 147 yards, later recovered a Monroe fumble and Jackson nabbed his second interception to keep Monroe off the scoreboard in the fourth quarter.
Junior running back Saul Martinez, who ran tough up the middle to provide a compliment to Herberger, then scored from nine yards out to make it 42-12 with 1:17 to play. Martinez carried the ball 16 times for 89 yards, helping St. Paul outgain Monroe 382-23 while averaging more than 10 yards per play.
"We had to battle a little bit and face a little bit of adversity in the second half, but the kids responded and so that was good because we hadn't had that for four quarters last week and the first two quarters this week," Coach Smith said. "That's always good to get that."
St. Paul now turns its attention to Toldeo (1-1), with the Bucks heading back out on the road for a 7 p.m. contest Friday.
"Every day we can always get better, so this is just the next step," Jackson said. "We've got to take it further."