By his standards, Hill-Murray Jr., trailing Sawyer Seidl, had a fairly quiet night for his team’s matchup against South St. Paul on Friday.
But when it mattered most, the Pioneers standout found a way to break loose, running for a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns as Hill-Murray came late and a home crowd at Higgins on a quiet October night. Before defeating the Packers 35-14. Memorial area.
Seidl, who had run for 315, 247 and 333 yards in his last three games, finished with 27 carries for 122 yards.
South St Paul scored 97 of that total in the second half after keeping them for just 25 yards on 15 carries during the first two quarters.
“As a team, we struggled to get some of our blocks and hit some of our holes,” said Seidl, who returned early in the second quarter with a 62-yard punt return on the special teams, which Placed his team top 14-7.
“Coming into the second half, we had to figure out a few things with different formations and figure out how to block some people that we didn’t rush. But we figured out those things and we started moving the ball slowly.
The Packers tied the game 14-14 on a wild 45-yard touchdown pass from Eliza Bryant to senior Keon Moore (who also made a 66-yard fumble return for a touchdown in the first quarter) with time in the first half.
This seemed to swing the momentum in their favor, but neither team could advance much after that, until Hill-Murray took the ball to his 41 in the third quarter with 3:35. That’s when Seidl finally began to break into the running game, capping the drive with an 11-yard touchdown run that brought his team back to the top 21-14 in the fourth.
“I knew in my mind that we were very good up front,” said Pioneers coach Rob Reeves, whose team (4-3) has won four straight since the start of the season 0-3. “We had a good (offensive) ) line and we’ve got one of the best running backs in the state. So we hoped to pop one eventually.”
The Hill-Murray defense also played its part, fixing five blunders. And it was a fumble recovery on his 47 in the first game of South St. Paul’s next possession that set up a 53-yard touchdown by Seidl a play later.
“We were getting there fast and physically,” said Pioneers senior defensive back Rashad McKinley. “Our coach said it was not going to be an easy game, so we set out to work hard. We wanted to go for the ball, and we got a chance every time.
Rejoined after the Packers moved the ball inside the Hill-Murray 10-yard line, with only 2 1/2 minutes remaining. But once again the ball came loose and McKinley was able to scoop it up and rumble for 76 yards for the final touchdown of the game.
“It was not part of our game plan,” said South St Paul’s coach Manuel Spriegel, whose team fell 2-5. “We didn’t plan on stumbling like this. But give him credit. He made plays.”
And, as a result, the Pioneers kept their winning streak alive in their regular-season finale at home against Orono on Wednesday.
“Nothing is really different,” said Reeves, whose team had seven or eight players going both ways early – the total is now four or five. “We played a tough schedule in the beginning.
“If anything has changed to help us, it’s the weather. We still have a lot of kids going on either side. And they’re not getting as bad as it’s cooler now. Coming in I knew that every game was going to be a dogfight. We’re starting to see a little more success in the back half of the schedule, and it feels good.”