Firebirds capitalize on Saints’ miscues

Ray Maloney, Sports
Firebirds capitalize on Saints’ miscues

BISMARCK, N.D. — St. Mary's special teams had an anything-but-special first half Friday night against the Devils Lake Firebirds.

The third-ranked Firebirds converted three mistakes by the St. Mary's punt team into touchdowns on the way to a 27-point first-half lead and a 34-6 Class AA West Region win at the Community Bowl.

The first miscue took place halfway through the first quarter when Kole Jensen tackled St. Mary's punter Tanner Megal on the Saints' 31 after Megal bobbled the snap. Four plays later, running back Ben Wolf burst through the left side for a 15-yard touchdown.

Early in the second quarter, the Firebirds blocked a St. Mary's punt inside the Saints' 10, and Dylan Ironheart recovered the loose ball in the end zone for the Firebirds' second score.

A hurried St. Mary's punt four plays after the ensuing kickoff traveled only 16 yards and rested on the Saints' 32. Jacob Berg scored from the 3 four plays later, and Joao Soares followed with his third extra point to make it 21-0 with 4:15 left in the first half.

The multiple mistakes by the punt team left St. Mary's coach Dan Smrekar scratching his head.

"We've done well on special teams, but tonight our punt team killed us," Smrekar said. "We gave them tremendous field position, and on one occasion gave them a touchdown off a blocked punt. We got into too deep a hole early because we made too many mistakes against a good team. You can't do that and expect to win."

Devils Lake coach Jay Schneider, whose team improved to 6-1 overall and 4-1 in region play, said special teams play was the point of emphasis during the week.

"We spent a lot of time on that in practice because St. Mary's is so good on special teams," he said. "They have a good kicking game and return game. We, on the other hand, have been decent on special teams, but not great. Tonight, we had the upper hand. It set the tone for us."

The Firebirds put another touchdown on the board before the half expired. Quarterback Beau Eriksson capped a quick 49-yard march with a 3-yard run - one play after connecting with Tyler Mertens for 46 yards.

Wolf's 3-yard TD run late in the third quarter closed the Firebirds' scoring. Wolf finished with 96 yards on 20 carries.

Schneider also had high praise for his defense, which held St. Mary's scoreless with 98 yards through three quarters.

"St. Mary's has good skill people and I thought our kids did a terrific job containing all of them," the Devils Lake coach said. "Our defense has been playing well all season. It's been a constant for us."

The Saints (2-5 overall, 2-3 region) spoiled Devils Lake's shutout bid with 4:46 left in the contest. Andrew Carlson scored on a 5-yard run, capping a 5-play, 53-yard drive. The Firebirds' special teams had the last laugh, however, blocking the extra point.

"It was a pretty tough night all around," Smrekar said.

Wolf finished with 93 yards rushing on 19 carries, while Eriksson finished with 75 yards through the air.

Score by Quarters

Devils Lake     7     20     7     0     —     34

St. Mary's       0       0     0     6     —      6

Scoring Summary

First Quarter

DL - Ben Wolf 15 run (Joao Soares kick), 5:26.

Second Quarter

DL - Dylan Ironheart recovered blocked punt in the end zone (Soares kick), 7:24.

DL - Jason Berg 3 run (Soares kick), 4:15.

DL - Beau Eriksson 3 run (run failed), 1:14.

Third Quarter

DL - Wolf 3 run (Soares kick), 3:08.

Fourth Quarter

SM - Andrew Carlson 5 run (kick blocked), 4:46.

Team Statistics

         DL         SM

First downs     10         9

Rushes-yards     35-157         40-178

Passing yards     73         0

Comp-Att-Int     4-11-0         0-6-0

Fumbles-lost     0-0         2-1

Penalties-yards     5-35         2-20

Individual Statistics

RUSHING: DL - Ben Wolf 19-93, Beau Eriksson 6-26, Jason Berg 5-21, Kole Jenson 3-10, Cole Boehmer 1-6, Sam Desai 1-1. SM - Andrew Carlson 16-95, John Welk 13-74, Dan Kovar 2-11, Presley Becker 6-11, Justin Klabunde 5-(minus-13).

PASSING: DL - Eriksson 4-11-0, 75 yards. SM - Klabunde 0-4-0, 0 yards; Preston Tescher 0-2-0, 0 yards.

RECEIVING: DL - Tyler Mertens 1-46, Wolf 1-14, Calvin Crawford 1-7, Brandon Myhre 1-8.

Records: Devils Lake 4-1 West Region, 6-1 overall. St. Mary's 2-3 , 2-5.