Woodchucks stifle Bearcats 62-26

Ray Maloney, Sports
North Star quarterback Tanner Komrowsky goes into shotgun formation during first quarter action in Tuesday's key Region 3 football clash between his Bearcats and St. John. The Woodchucks rolled to a 62-20 win to secure a first-round bye in the 9-man playoffs, which begin next week.

CANDO, N.D. — The game that was supposed to be was all it was billed — for the first 12 minutes.

St. John used an impressive 22-0 spurt in the second quarter to establish momentum on the way to winning 62-26 over North Star at Conyers Field.

St. John finishes the regular season with a 5-1 region record and earned a first-round bye in the playoffs, which begin next week. The Woodchucks are 7-1 on the year with their lone setback coming at the hands of Wells County.

North Star lost more than the game on Tuesday. A win would have given the Bearcats the region title and a first-round bye. Instead, North Star finishes in fourth place in the region with a 4-2 record and is expected to travel to Beach for a first-round game, according to coach Bryan Haugen, whose team is 6-3 on the year.

“(St. John) has the best triple option offense in the state and Tyler Bryant runs it to perfection,” North Star coach Bryan Haugen.

Bryant sure does.

The senior signal caller used his arm and legs, and got plenty of help from Mitch Slater and Seth Anderson at the running back positions as the Woodchucks rolled up nearly 600 yards of offense against the Bearcats on a cold night.

Slater got the Woodchucks churning in the first period. He broke loose for a 65-yard touchdown run to put the first points on the board with less than three minutes gone in the game.

But North Star, behind the arm of quarterback Tanner Komrowsky answered quickly. He launched a long pass down the left sideline. A few plays later, Komrowsky hooked up with Calvin Teubner in the right corner of the end zone to tie the game at 7:43.

That was when that vaunted triple option really kicked into gear for the Woodchucks. They marched 65 yards behind the running of Bryant, Slater and Anderson in a drive that consumed more than five minutes.

Bryant ran behind center from two yards out for a touchdown with 2:32 left in the second period and hooked up with Collin Vandal for the conversion to put St. John in front 16-8.

It was an advantage the Woodchucks would never relinquish.

North Star did manage to close to within 16-14 when Komrowsky hooked up with Jacob Hagler from 50 yards out with 53.5 seconds remaining in the first period.

After that point it was all St. John — thanks in large part to a defense rose to the occasion.

Following the North Star score the Bearcats successfully executed an onsides kick. The kick went the necessary 10 yards before being touched by a St. John player and North Star recovered at midfield.

The play drew a pair of unsportsmanlike penalties against North Star and moved the ball to the St. John-20 where the Bearcats took over in terrific field position.

North Star was unable to capitalize as the Bearcats were able to move only two yards. Faced with a fourth-and-12, a Komrowsky pass fell incomplete and turned the ball over to the Woodchucks.

“It seemed like our players rallied at that point,” St. John coach Cory Davis said. “They really got after things after that onsides kicks ... and the two penalties.”

Slater ran in from 20 yards out on the next St. John possession to give the Woodchucks a 22-14 advantage, and Bryant scampered in from one yard out later in the period to increase the lead to 30-14 with 4:20 remaining in the half.

Collin Vandal’s four-yard burst with 2:27 left in the second quarter capped the 22-0 run that virtually put the game out of reach for the Woodchucks, led 38-14 at halftime.

Bryant broke loose on a 44-yard run on the first play of the second half for a score and connected with Zach Wilkie for the conversion to give St. John a 46-14 advantage and the running clock came into effect for the Woodchucks.

“We wanted to establish that we were one of the dominant teams in the region,” said Bryant, who finished with 158 yards on the ground and 56 yards through the air.

“We also wanted to put pressure on (Komrowsky) ... we knew he is one of the top quarterbacks in the state and our defensive line did an outstanding job of keeping pressure on him most of the night.”

The St. John coach also admitted being weary of the talented Komrowsky.

“(North Star) has a very good team ... and we know that given the chance, Komrowsky throw the ball on a dime,” Davis said.

Komrowsky managed 253 yards passing on the night after completing 19 of 33 passes on four touchdowns for the Bearcats.

Tuebner finished with 100 receiving yards for the Bearcats on nine receptions and Hagler added 42 yards on four catches. Both caught two touchdowns on the night.

Bryant accounted for 214 yards of total offense in the contest for the Woodchucks. He rushed 14 times for 158 yards and added 56 yards through the air. Bryant completed two of four passes on the night.

Slater led the way with 202 yards rushing on 14 carries. He had already racked up 178 of those yards by halftime for St. John, the defending region champions.

Anderson, a 6-1, 235-pound sophomore, added 56 yards of his own on 10 carries, including one touchdown run when he rammed through the North Star defensive line and rambled 25 yards for the score.