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Woodchucks trip up No. 2-ranked Raiders

RICHARDTON -- Dynamite comes in small packages. St. John quarterback Mitch Slater, a 5-foot-7, 160-pound senior, demonstrated that Saturday afternoon at the Richardton Football Field during a 9-man second-round playoff game against Richardton-Tay...

Richardton-Taylor-Hebron junior running back Sean Elkin
Press Photo by Dustin Monke Richardton-Taylor-Hebron junior running back Sean Elkins, top, is tackled by St. John defensive back Cole Schroeder on Saturday during a 9-man second-round playoff game at the Richardton Football Field.

RICHARDTON -- Dynamite comes in small packages.

St. John quarterback Mitch Slater, a 5-foot-7, 160-pound senior, demonstrated that Saturday afternoon at the Richardton Football Field during a 9-man second-round playoff game against Richardton-Taylor-Hebron.

Slater rushed for 261 yards and five touchdowns -- including an 85-yard go-ahead score on a broken-play scramble with just over 4 minutes remaining -- to lead the unranked Woodchucks to a 36-30 upset victory over the No. 2-ranked Raiders, the Region 6 champions.

St. John (9-1), the No. 2 seed out of Region 4, moves on to face Region 4 champion Wells County -- the only team it has lost to this season -- next Saturday in the quarterfinals.

If the Woodchucks can pound the Bears like they did the Raiders, they stand a very good chance.

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Slater, junior fullback Seth Anderson and senior tailback Evan Counts rushed for 437 yards out of a tricky I-formation option that ran over the Raiders' defensive front and allowed the Woodchucks to chip away at an average of 8.1 yards per carry.

"He, every game, gets a little better at it," St. John head coach Cory Davis said of Slater's ability to run the option offense. "It helps having Seth in there, him being able to get some yards up the middle. Eventually he (Slater) will pull it down, make the right read and go."

"Go" is exactly what Slater did the moment he saw an opening on his biggest play of the game.

After nearly being wrapped up in the backfield, Slater shook loose R-T-H defenders, darted up the middle and sprinted 85 yards for the score to deflate a Raiders (8-1) team that just 54 seconds earlier had tied the game 30-30.

"He's good," Raiders head coach Travis Olson said. "He gets in the open field and he makes people miss. We knew that was huge concern. We did well sometimes, but they just keep with their stuff, just like we said they were going to do, and he makes a big play here or there. It was a game that went down to big plays here or there, and they made more plays then we did."

Slater scored on runs of 1, 9, 11 and 24 yards.

The 6-3, 260-pound Anderson added 106 yards on 20 carries. Almost all of his yards came after first contact.

"He's just a monster," Slater said. "I'm glad to have him on my team."

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That combination also kept the Raiders off the field early in the second half.

R-T-H's first three possessions of the second half ended in an interception and two punts while taking just 4:02 off the clock.

Meanwhile, the Woodchucks gnawed away at the clock. They had the ball 4:30 longer than the Raiders in the second half.

St. John kept R-T-H off the field by limiting Raiders senior tailback Adam Woroniecki.

Though Woroniecki rushed for 174 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries, he only broke for more than seven yards four times.

Woroniecki's four long runs resulted in two touchdowns -- a 71-yarder in the first quarter and a 19-yard score that put R-T-H in position to tie the game in the fourth quarter. He added a 3-yard TD run in the second quarter to put the Raiders ahead 22-16 and intercepted Slater on St. John's third play of the third quarter.

"We played with a lot of heart, but I guess that wasn't enough," said Woroniecki, who finished the season with 1,932 yards rushing and 32 touchdowns. "They're a good football team."

St. John held the edge in total yards, 490 to 384. Both teams racked up big numbers in the first quarter as they each scored twice, with the Woodchucks getting out to a 16-14 lead.

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R-T-H junior fullback Sean Elkins opened the scoring with a 5-yard TD run and had 80 yards rushing and the game-tying 2-point conversion run with 5:03 left.

"It was just a huge game," Davis said. "Both teams played their hearts out. They played until they couldn't play anymore. We ended up being ahead at the end."

St. John 16 6 6 6 -- 36

RTH 14 8 0 8 -- 30

First quarter

RTH-Sean Elkins 5 run (run failed), 8:02.

SJ-Mitch Slater 1 run (Seth Anderson run), 3:24.

RTH-Adam Woroniecki 71 run (Kasey Dressler pass from Jarret Naumann), 3:03.

SJ-Slater 9 run (Slater run), :41.

Second quarter

RTH-Woroniecki 3 run (Naumann run), 3:12.

SJ-Slater 11 run (run failed), :18.

Third quarter

SJ-Slater 24 run (Zach Wilkie run) 5:18.

Fourth quarter

RTH-Woroniecki 19 run (Elkins run), 5:03.

SJ-Slater 85 run (run failed), 4:09.

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: SJ, Slater 23-261, Anderson 20-106, Evan Counts 11-70. RTH, Woroniecki 24-174, Elkins 13-80, Naumann 5-37, Brenden Kaminsky 1-2.

PASSING: SJ, Slater 2-5-1 53. RTH, Naumann 6-12-1 91.

RECEIVING: SJ, Joe Laducer 1-29, Counts 1-24. RTH, Chad Gullickson 3-32, Dressler 2-50, Dillan Patton 1-9.

Dakota Messer
Press Photo by Dustin Monke Richardton-Taylor-Hebron junior defensive end Dakota Messer tackles St. John senior quarterback Mitch Slater on Saturday during a 9-man football second-round playoff game in Richardton.

Related Topics: FOOTBALL
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