SARTELL — Tron Trondson was speaking of his team’s 42-14 victory over St. Cloud Apollo Thursday night.
But in a way, the Sartell senior defensive back was describing the Sabres’ entire season.
“We took a few knocks early, but I’m proud of our boys,” said Trondson, who was starting his second straight game at free safety in place of injured classmate Logan Anding.
“We didn’t put our heads down. We came back strong.”
That they did. After surrendering a touchdown on the game’s opening drive, Sartell rattled off 42 unanswered points en route to its third win in the final four games of the regular season.
“This is a very resilient group,” said Sabres coach Scott Hentges, whose team began the season 0-4. “They’ve battled through some tough breaks. We had some tough losses early and some injuries we’ve had to overcome even in the past few weeks. But they hung in there.”
Seeding won’t be announced until Friday. But Sartell (3-5) seems likely headed for a matchup at Brainerd in the first round of the Section 8-5A playoffs at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The Warriors are the lone team to beat the Sabres in the final four games — winning 21-19 last Saturday in Brainerd.
“We’re ready to go back up there again,” said sophomore running back John Schmidt, who carried the ball 17 times for 83 yards and three first-half touchdowns Thursday despite leaving for a brief time with an injured elbow.
“We think it can be a different story this time around.”
The story changed quickly Thursday. The Eagles marched 80 yards in seven plays to take a 7-0 lead on a 4-yard touchdown run by senior Clayton Hoeper on the game’s opening drive.
But Sartell answered right back with a 12-play, 68-yard drive of its own capped by a 7-yard touchdown run by Schmidt.
Then, just three plays later, Trondson picked off a pass and returned it to the Apollo 30. Five plays after that, junior Christopher Belling connected with senior Jake Lieberg on a 20-yard touchdown pass that put the Sabres in front 14-7.
“When things haven’t been going your way, those kind of plays can deflate you pretty quickly,” said Eagles coach Justin Skaalerud, whose team (1-7) will likely play at Bemidji in the first round of the Section 8-5A playoffs Tuesday.
“That happened to us tonight.”
Schmidt then scored on a pair of touchdown runs in the second quarter and senior Devin Douvier rushed for two touchdowns in the second half. Apollo finally got back on the board on a 27-yard touchdown run by Hoeper with 7:26 to play.
But by then, the outcome was no longer in doubt.
“Tonight symbolized how this season has gone for us,” Trondson said. “Things have gone wrong. But we’ve never lost hope. And we’ve never lost sight of our goals. We still think we have the talent to make it to state. Now we get the chance to go out and prove it.”
SCA — Clayton Hoeper 4 run (John Blommel kick)
S — John Schmidt 7 run (Jordan Och kick)
S — Jake Lieberg 20 pass from Christopher Belling (Och kick)
S — Schmidt 6 run (Och kick)
S — Schmidt 6 run (Och kick)
S — Devin Douvier 3 run (Och kick)
S — Douvier 11 run (Och kick)
SCA — Hoeper 27 run (Blommel kick)
Rushing: SCA — Hoeper 11-84, Cole Johnson 1-11, Ethan Novacinski 1-2, Nick Gill 1-0, Peter Nelson 1-(-1), Joey Atkinson 6-(-13); Totals: 21-83; S — Schmidt 17-83, Douvier 9-49, Ethan Stark 4-27, Brandan Walz 1-12, Lawton Miller 4-11, Braeden Dykhuizen 3-5, Belling 2-4, Och 1-(-10); Totals: 41-181.
Passing: SCA — Atkinson 9-17-1 85, Blake Louangsyharaj 1-1-0 9; Totals: 10-18-1 94; S — Belling 9-14-0 219, Och 1-1-0 24; Totals: 10-15-0 243.
Receiving: SCA — Nelson 3-35, Johnson 3-28, Novacinski 2-17, Max Korte 1-9, Hoeper 1-5; Totals: 10-84; S — Lieberg 3-91, Walz 2-85, Stark 3-51, Blake Weber 1-14, Grant Olson 1-2; Totals: 10-243.
Follow Frank Rajkowski on Twitter at @rajko1973 or like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sctimesfrank .