Jackson Greenwaldt ran for three touchdowns and threw for one more as the St. Michael-Albertville Knights moved into the Section 6-5A Championship for the second straight year with a 27-7 win over Monticello Saturday afternoon.
The Knights took the lead on the opening drive of the game, marching 70 yards behind key runs from Greenwaldt (a 9-yard run converted a key third down and long) and Jordan Joseph. Greenwaldt would call his own number for the game’s first touchdown with a scamper around the left guard, breaking to the left pylon to open the scoring.
“We kind of knew that our offense could find lanes if we were patient and do things the way we know how to do,” said Joseph, who led all runners with 108 yards on 19 carries. “We just had to play our game.”
The teams would trade punts, but Monticello would break through just before the end of the first quarter, tying the game when quarterback Andrew Cole evaded the Knights’ rush and zipped a ball over the middle to Matt Grathwohl. The receiver’s defender fell on the play coming back to the ball, and Grathwohl scored to tie up the game.
The Knights would answer with a key drive before the half. After pinning Monticello deep and forcing a punt, STMA took over inside the 50, and Greenwaldt would again find running room on his own, this time around the right side. A key block by Landon Briddell sprung him into the secondary, and Greenwaldt broke free for a 30-yard touchdown, giving the Knights a 14-7 lead.
In the third quarter, after forcing another Monti punt to open the second half, the Knights got on the move again. This time, a pass was in order down in the red zone, and Greenwaldt went to one of his favorite targets in Briddell, staking the Knights to a 21-7 lead.
The Knights would score again in the fourth, this time led by a Joseph run for 40 yards that ended in the end zone, but was called back out to the 10 due to an illegal block. Greenwaldt would finish it, creating the final margin when the Knights muffed the PAT.
“He’s got great vision, and he’s just a good quarterback, good leader for our team,” Joseph said.
The Knights defense was the combined star of the second half, forcing Monti to go to their passing game after building a 14-point lead. Specialist quarterback Aaron Hanson completed just nine passes for 48 yards.
Monticello’s running game, which accounted for a school-record 439 yards in the Magic’s quarterfinal win over Buffalo, was stifled by the STMA defense to less than 150 yards, and more importantly – kept out of the end zone.
“This is what you play for – to have the Section Championship on your home field,” said coach Jared Essler of his 8-1 Knights. “It feels really good.”
STMA’s run defense will have its work cut out for them again Friday, Oct. 31 when the Elk River Elks, ranked No. 1 overall in Class 5A but second in the section, come for the championship tilt. ERHS averaged nearly 400 yards on the ground in the regular season, and Zac Ernst – the senior fullback – had more than 200 on his own against Rogers in the Elks’ 42-34 win over Rogers.
Click here for a slideshow from Saturday’s game vs. MHS.