Dela Cerda and Smith combine for nine touchdowns and 485 yards

by: SETH GORDON - St. Paul sophomore Tyler Smith bursts through a huge hole set up by his offensive line in a September game against Ione High School. The Bucks will have to lean heavily on their running game this week against Lowell as a way to control the clock and keep the ball away from the Devils No. 1-ranked offense, which is averaging more than 74 points a game this season.In what has become familiar territory for the St. Paul football team, the Buckaroos are once again back in the quarterfinals of the 1A state tournament after beating the Yoncalla Eagles 72-44 Friday night at the Rodeo Grounds in St. Paul.

Led by the team’s power-run game, the Buckaroos marched all over the visiting Eagles to the tune of 482 rushing yards. The team amassed a 36-12 lead after the first quarter and was content to trade scores back and forth with the Eagles throughout the rest of the game to take the win, said Bucks coach Tony Smith.

The team was led offensively by the running back duo of freshman Fernando Dela Cerda and sophomore Tyler Smith. Dela Cerda led the team in rushing attempts, carrying the ball 30 times for 190 yards and four touchdowns. Smith was the team’s leading rusher with 285 yards and five touchdowns on 22 carries.

“They’ve done a real nice job,” said Smith, who credited the team’s ability to run the ball at ease to the work of St. Paul’s interior linemen. “I think our linemen are really a part of that that is often overlooked.”

The Bucks’ linemen certainly had their work cut out for them, as the team ran the ball on 59 of 61 possessions. Despite running a one-dimensional offense, the Eagles were unable to slow down St. Paul. The Buckaroos got on board with a pitch to Smith on the second offensive play of the game. The sophomore back took the ball 42 yards to the endzone for one of his six carries that went at least 20 yards.

On the ensuing Eagle possession, Yoncalla coughed up the ball on its second play. St. Paul junior lineman Joe Hiller pounced on the fumble to give the ball back to the Bucks offense. Smith once again got the call and scored from 31 yards out. The team scored a second-consecutive two-point conversion, and the Bucks held a 16-0 lead after one minute of game time and just three offensive plays.

Smith and Dela Cerda took turns scoring three more times in the quarter to give St. Paul a comfortable lead after the first quarter.

The two young backs did not start the year as the team’s primary ball carriers, but the duo were thrust into primary roles due to injuries and have thrived in recent weeks.

“The learning curve with a freshman and sophomore is going to be much greater, and their room for improvement is going to be much greater because they don’t have that experience,” said Coach Smith. “I think that’s a big part of what we’ve seen.”

The Buckaroos (7-4, 5-0 Special District 1) are riding a five-game win streak into the quarterfinals of the state tournament after starting the season 2-4. The team has a difficult draw Friday night as they prepare to face the No. 1 Lowell Red Devils (10-0, 7-0 Special District 5).

Lowell has the state’s top offense after averaging 74.4 points so far this season. That includes 76 points the team put up against St. Paul in September when the Devils beat the Bucks 76-40.

Tyler Smith was the team’s leading rusher in that game with 146 yards on 10 carries, but the Buckaroos simply did not have the firepower to match Lowell’s potent offense.

Friday’s quarterfinal game will be held at Pleasant Hill High School at 7 p.m. The winning team will advance to the semifinals to face either Adrian or Camas Valley.

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