COUNCIL BLUFFS — St. Albert’s offensive linemen heard all week about how important their role was in the Falcons’ playoff opener against Pella Christian.
The Falcons (9-1) used big plays to roll to 436 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 46 carries on a wet and muddy Al Leber Field Wednesday evening, routing Pella Christian 42-7.
“I told my O-line coming out that they had to put this team on their backs,” St. Albert junior quarterback Tucker Culjat said. “They did a great job of coming out with a lot of intensity and a great attitude.”
St. Albert rushed out of the gate on both sides of the ball.
The Falcon defense held the Eagles to a three-and-out on their first drive. Culjat scored a 20-yard keeper to give the Falcons a 7-0 lead.
Pella Christian mustered only one first down on its next drive, and Culjat found the end zone again on a 14-yard run less than three minutes later to stretch St. Albert’s lead to 13-0 less than seven minutes in.
“We told our line to come out and stick it to them in the first quarter,” Culjat said. “I think we did a great job.”
Culjat — who finished with 95 rushing yards — extended the Falcons’ lead to 20-0 right before halftime with his third rushing score of the half. He scrambled out of the pocket on a third-and-16 and dashed into the end zone from 26 yards out.
“Our defense kept us in the first half,” St. Albert head coach Kevin Culjat said. “At halftime, we challenged our guys to play more physical football, and I think they did.”
The Falcon offense found its highest gear in the third quarter.
Isaac Finn scored on two long carries — a 39-yarder and a 47-yarder — early in the third quarter to start a running clock Pella Christian never stopped.
“That first drive was nice, and that 99-yarder was the capper,” Kevin Culjat said. “I thought we came out a lot more physical in the second half.”
St. Albert’s leading rusher on the night, Jake Bendgen, added a 33-yard touchdown run with 2:04 to play in the third quarter, pushing the Falcons’ lead to 42-0. Bendgen finished with 168 yards on 16 rushes.
“We always talk about intensity and keeping the drive going and taking the wind out of their sails,” said Finn, who rushed for 144 yards on seven carries, “and that’s just what we needed to do.”
Pella Christian, which finished its season at 6-4, finally got on the scoreboard with 6:11 to play. Derek VanKooten sprinted for a 53-yard touchdown run against the St. Albert backups.
“We rushed for 212 yards in the second half of the Mount Ayr game,” Pella Christian coach Rich Kacmarynski said. “We wanted to do that against St. Albert tonight, but that didn’t happen. They’re just too tough.”
Next up for the Falcons on Monday night is 8-2 Van Meter, a 28-0 winner over Panorama.
Kevin Culjat said the Falcons’ offensive line will again play a key role in the second round of the playoffs.
“You want to be explosive. Every time you run a play, you want it to be effective, and I think our offensive line takes pride in that,” he said. “They think every play we run is going to go the house.”