Justin Herberger rushes for 255 yards and four touchdowns as the Bucks head into league play at 4-0

During practice in August, the St. Paul football team had a goal going into the season — finish 1-0 each week and head into the league schedule with four wins. The Bucks accomplished both Friday night at the rodeo grounds, beating the Creswell Bulldogs 53-14.PHIL HAWKINS - WOODBURN INDEPENDENT - St. Paul senior Logan Villareal pulls down Creswell quarterback Colton White in the Buckaroos' 53-7 win over the Bulldogs on Friday.

No matter how big the individual numbers were, everyone in St. Paul couldn't stop talking about the team after the Buckaroos walked off the field.

St. Paul shot out of the gate in its final non-conference game of the year, putting up three rushing touchdowns in the first quarter.

"You've got to give all credit to the offensive line, always," junior running back Justin Herberger said. "They did a great job pulling down blocks. It was awesome."

Herberger ripped off a 69-yard touchdown on his second carry en route to an incredibly efficient game, finishing with 255 rushing yards and four touchdowns on seven attempts. He punched it in again on his next carry, putting up 108 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter to help the Bucks take a 21-0 lead.

"Our guys are doing a great job up front," SPHS coach Tony Smith said. "Justin's a very good player, but those guys up front are doing just an outstanding job. Coach (Todd) Swan coaches those guys and he does a great job with them."

St. Paul's lead ballooned to 27 points after quarterback Holden Smith connected with Jaidyn Jackson for a 41-yard touchdown early in the second quarter. The Bulldogs' pass-heavy offense began yielding big gains before the end of the half, culminating in a 29-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Colton White to sophomore Tyler Frieze to make it 27-7 with 1:36 remaining in the half.

But that left more than enough time for the Bucks to strike one last time before heading to the lockers. After a holding penalty brought back a big gain on their first play, Herberger struck gold again, peeling off a 54-yard score to make it 33-7 with 1:01 left in the quarter.

The first half came to close on an interception from Jackson, and after a prolonged break to honor the 2017 homecoming court, Jackson picked up where he left off.

The junior receiver took the opening kickoff of the third quarter 80 yards to the house to put the Bucks up 39-7.

The Bulldogs threatened to score on their first drive of the half, slinging the ball down to the 10-yard line. But St. Paul drove them back 23 yards on the next two plays to put Creswell at third and goal from the 33-yard line.

The Bucks forced a turnover on downs and marched right back down the field to score again, this time on a 34-yard scamper from sophomore Saul Martinez.

Creswell had another promising drive halted past midfield, this time on an interception from Mitch Curtis. St. Paul answered on the next play, once again with Herberger.

The junior's final carry of the game was the same as his first, another 69-yard touchdown run, this time to put the Bucks up 53-7 at the end of the third quarter. The starters took a seat for the final 12 minutes, allowing the reserves to mop up.

"Any time you can have that situation where you can get everybody in, I think that's great," Smith said. "The kids played well."

Although the Bulldogs found some success in the passing game behind White, who threw for 221 yards, the Bucks generated timely sacks and turnovers to keep Creswell from mounting any kind of sustained momentum.

"It's just a team thing," said Jackson, who finished with two interceptions. "The line helped us out with their rush."

Holden Smith finished four-of-seven for 90 yards and one touchdown. He also had a one-yard score on the ground for St. Paul's first touchdown of the game. In addition to Herberger's big game, Martinez added 94 yards and a touchdown of his own on nine carries. In total, the Bucks put up 439 yards of offense to win their fourth consecutive game by 30 or more points.

Perhaps the only downside on Friday was St. Paul's proclivity for penalties in big moments, which erased several significant gains throughout the game.

"We played good as a team, but we always need to get better," Jackson said.

"We need to clean up the penalties," Coach Smith agreed. "Other than that, were happy."

St. Paul now prepares to enter the second half of the season 4-0 and at the top of the OSAA 2A rankings.

"Before the season you say this is where you want to be," Herberger said. "Being 4-0 in the preseason is nice. Our league is always tough, so you've got to be prepared for that."

The Bucks open the Tri-River schedule against the Santiam Wolverines, who are coming off a 50-6 victory over Pleasant Hill to start the season 4-0 as well. The Wolverines have been every bit as good as the Bucks through the non-conference schedule and are looking to avenge a two-point loss to St. Paul last year.

"That's going to be a big game," Tony Smith said.

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