St. Pat’s didn’t suffer the fate of several other higher seeds on Thursday, but the Irish did get a stiff test in the first round of the Class C2 state football playoffs.
St. Pat’s advanced to the second round on Wednesday with a 28-0 win over Centura at Knights of Columbus Field.
“You got to give Centura a lot of credit,” said Irish defensive coordinator Brent Aufdenkamp. “They could have rolled over after those two quick scores, but they didn’t and they presented some problems for us.”
The Irish opened the game by scoring a touchdown on their first drive. After starting on their own 46, the Irish used four plays, with quarterback Sean Keenan scoring on a 25-yard run with 10:20 left in the first half. The first of four Brandon Niesen point after touchdown kicks gave the Irish a 7-0 lead.
After forcing a Centurions punt, the Irish started their second drive at their own 25. St. Pat’s marched down the field on eight plays — the biggest play at Niesen gain of 4 yards on a fourth-and-1 — and Keenan found Mark Mayfield for a 34-yard touchdown pass with 5:12 still to play in the first quarter.
Centura got its defense going for much of remaining first half and the two teams traded punts before the Centurions finally mounted a scoring threat. Centura drive to the St. Pat’s 13 but the drive stalled. On fourth-and-9 from the Irish 13, Centura attempted a fake field goal that lost 5 yards and gave the ball back to St. Pat’s.
The Irish started their final drive of the first half at the Centura 49 with under 2 minutes to play. Niesen scored on a 17-yard touchdown run with 42 seconds remaining in the first half to take a 21-0 lead into the break.
The Centurions made plenty of adjustments at halftime and held the ball for most of the third quarter. Centura was able to move the chains consistently on the ground.
“They changed some things up on us,” Aufdenkamp said of the Centura offense. “We ran all our defense off reading the pulls of the offensive linemen.
“In the second half, they either didn’t pull, or ran fake pulls that took us out of position. They had some great ball fakes and really were a handful to stop.
“We knew their double-wing offense would be a challenge. It’s not an offense the junior varsity can simulate well in practice. After all, they’ve been running the thing for five months and we’re asking our junior varsity offense to simulate it for us in practice.”
While the Centurions were moving the ball, they weren’t posing a scoring threat until the blocked a St. Pat’s punt and got a first-and-10 at the St. Pat’s 11. The Irish defense, which has been stellar all season, held again and St. Pat’s took over on downs at their on 6.
“We talk about quick defensive situations all the time,” Aufdenkamp said. “It’s important not to dwell on something bad and communicate and turn the situation around.
“I was happy as we went out on defense, several players were already talking with each other and getting things turned around and we made the plays we needed to.”
St. Pat’s finished off the scoring with 6:01 left in the game on a 3-yard touchdown run by Niesen, completing a 28-0 victory.
The Irish, who improved to 9-0 on the season, will host West Holt on Wednesday. West Holt, 7-2, held on to beat Battle Creek 13-6 on Thursday.
Centura finished the season at 4-5.