St. Paul made school history by advancing to the state football playoffs semifinals for the first time.
But why stop there?
The Wildcats have their sights set on a first trip to a championship game, but will need to win Friday’s battle of the undefeateds at Oakland-Craig. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m.
“We’re not satisfied just to be in the semifinals,” coach Rusty Fuller said. “That wasn’t our No. 1 goal. This is going to be the toughest competition we’ve faced, but if we have our best game, then I’m confident in our chances. We will have to be dialed in from the start.”
As expected when undefeated teams like Class C-2 No. 1-rated St. Paul and No. 2 Oakland-Craig meet up at this point of the postseason, neither side enters with glaring weaknesses.
Both ride strong rushing attacks on offense. The Knights average 332 yards on the ground and 116 through the air.
Junior Jaron Meyer has 926 yards and 10 touchdowns while senior Ian Lundquist has added 679 yards and 17 scores.
Fuller said last week’s win over Aquinas was good preparation in facing Oakland-Craig.
“Offensively they look a lot like David City Aquinas,” Fuller said. “They like to do a lot of the same things running the ball. They have a big tight end (6-foot-7, 250-pound senior Wyatt Seagren) and he’s a tough blocker.”
St. Paul’s defense has made it tough for teams to run the ball all season, so this will be an interesting battle along the trenches.
“We have to be gap sound,” Fuller said. “We did a great job of that against David City Aquinas. (Oakland-Craig) likes to run jet sweeps and around the perimeter. We want to make sure they don’t run inside against us. We need to try to make them one-dimensional.”
St. Paul’s offense averages 322 yards rushing and 86 passing. Junior Eli Larson is closing in on 2,000 yards this season, entering the game with 1,987 yards on 202 carries (9.8 ypc) with 30 scores.
Larson and a big, powerful offensive line have moved the ball all season long.
“With our offensive line and a great running back, we just need to have a clean game — no dropped snaps, no turnovers,” Fuller said.
St. Paul has come a long way during Fuller’s six seasons. The Wildcats went a combined 0-16 the previous two years. The program had won two playoff games in a season only once before — in the 32-team field days in 2010.
“There are a couple of different reasons,” said Fuller of the program’s turnaround. “The No. 1 is that the kids who are now seniors grew up in the youth football program. The boys started playing flag football in kindergarten and tackle in sixth grade.
“The second reason is that since I’ve been here, the offseason weightlifting program has been a focus. It was not really structured before, but now we have an 80% participation rate over the summer.”
On Friday, the Wildcats will try to make that offseason work pay off with a trip Lincoln.