St. Paul finally earns a win over rival Kennedy
ST. PAUL — With St. Paul High School's four-year stint at the 2A classification likely coming to an end this year, the football team entered Friday's game looking at their final opportunity to get a win over rival Kennedy.
The No. 1 Buckaroos made up for it and then some on Senior Night at the rodeo grounds, defeating the No. 9 Trojans 54-14 to tighten their grip on the top spot in the conference standings and state rankings.
"We've never beaten them since we moved up to 2A, so that was a huge motivation," SPHS coach Tony Smith said.
Although the Trojans (1-5, 1-1 Tri-River) are experiencing a down year after back-to-back 10-win seasons, they still promised to be a threat coming off a 42-14 win in their league opener against Central Linn.
"They've been one of the finest programs in the state," Smith said.
While it was the Bucks' sixth consecutive victory by 30 or more points, Kennedy did something no other team has done this season — score first.
The Trojans opened the game by holding the Bucks to a turnover on downs, then quickly marched down the field and scored on a 10-yard run by sophomore Emorej Lynk, forcing St. Paul to play from behind for the first time all season.
St. Paul returned the favor to tie the score on its next drive, which junior Justin Herberger capped with a two-yard dive into the end zone.
The Bucks, who lead 2A in scoring, could not be stopped from that point on, adding 41 straight points to turn a tight contest into another blowout.
"They're physical and they do things the right way," Kennedy coach Joe Panuke said. "Our guys played hard, we come out, go down and score. They made some adjustments and we tried to make some, and they executed better than we did tonight."
St. Paul bottled up Kennedy's offense and used big plays from Herberger and sophomore Saul Martinez to march down the field on its third drive and make it 14-7 on a 12-yard run by Herberger.
St. Paul then held Kennedy to three-and-out to get the ball back near midfield, setting up the play of the game. Quarterback Holden Smith threw to Jaidyn Jackson on the sideline on a routine out pattern. The junior receiver leapt with outstretched hands to pop the ball up in the air twice before pulling it in with his fingertips and tip-toe down the sideline 43 yards for the touchdown.
By that point, the rout was on.
"I just try to get him the ball," Holden Smith said. "He's an excellent receiver, so if I get it out there, he'll make a play on it. It's not much work on my part. I can trust him to make an excellent play."
Herberger added touchdown runs of 29 and 46 yards, while Holden Smith connected with tight end Campbell Smith for his second touchdown pass of the night to make it a 41-7 game.
Martinez capped the 48-point run with a 14-yard touchdown run to give St. Paul a 48-7 lead with 2:38 remaining in the third quarter. Spencer Curtis added a five-yard touchdown to conclude the scoring early in the fourth quarter.
Herberger led all players with 12 carries for 210 yards and four touchdowns, while Martinez added 153 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries to help the Bucks rack up 634 yards of offense.
Holden Smith was seven-of-16 for 116 yards and two touchdowns, finding Jackson three times for 85 yards and a score, and Campbell Smith for three catches and a score.
Defensively, Jackson had two interceptions for the second straight game, while Alex Dela Cerda had a team-high 10 tackles.
St. Paul (6-0, 2-0 Tri-River) finishes the season with back-to-back road games, beginning this Friday at No. 10 Central Linn (3-3, 1-1 Tri-River).
"We just have to get better every week and come out next week with the mentality that we're going to win," Holden Smith said.