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Unbeaten Saints run over Morris

Does St. Scholastica football coach Greg Carlson ever look at video of the Saints' inaugural season in 2008, just to see how far the program has come?...

Does St. Scholastica football coach Greg Carlson ever look at video of the Saints' inaugural season in 2008, just to see how far the program has come?

"I don't want to," Carlson said. "I never look back. I only look forward."

That's because the future is bright for Saints' football, especially after Saturday's convincing 44-19 Upper Midwest Athletic Conference victory over Minnesota-Morris before 1,886 spectators at Malosky Stadium.

St. Scholastica sophomore running back Jake Jensen led the way with 132 yards and a school-record four rushing touchdowns as the Saints (3-0 overall, 2-0 UMAC) won their seventh straight dating to last season.

"I don't really pay any attention to records and stuff like that, but a lot of credit has to go to the offensive line," Jensen said. "Some of those holes they were opening up were huge, and when we can get the running game going, that opens up the play action. Once we get in a groove like that, there isn't much a defense can do to stop it."

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It wasn't that long ago when the Saints would get manhandled. Now, they're doing the manhandling. St. Scholastica had 305 of its 444 total yards by halftime as they built a 30-13 lead behind Jensen's 106 rushing yards and three TDs.

Morris (2-2, 2-1) had success throwing the football in the first half against the Saints' bend-but-don't-break defense, with 6-foot-4 receiver Brendon Foss proving to be a tough matchup for St. Scholastica's stable of 5-foot-8 defensive backs (plus, starting defensive back Alec French is out with a broken collarbone). The Cougars' offense, however, couldn't keep pace with the Saints' balanced offense.

The difference?

Balance. St. Scholastica had it and Morris didn't. That made the going that much harder when the Cougars got within the Saints' 20, with Morris failing to score any points twice within the red zone.

Senior linebacker Sean Graskey had nine tackles as St. Scholastica held Morris preseason All-American Cougar Todd Gramenz to 15 yards on 11 carries.

"We were just physically beat up front, and when that happens, it's hard to do anything," Morris coach Todd Hickman said. "We couldn't establish any running game at all, and Scholastica has a great team. They've got excellent coaching and stick with what they do well."

On Saturday, that was pounding the ball inside and out with Jensen and Co., and senior quarterback Alex Thiry spreading the ball around to a bevy of receivers. Senior Keegan O'Neill of Superior led the way with seven receptions for 96 yards and two touchdowns. Thiry finished an efficient 15-for-18 for 208 yards and two touchdowns and has yet to throw an interception this season.

Foss had 12 receptions for 155 yards and a touchdown for Morris, which finished with 350 total yards, including 193 in the first half.

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"Both offenses were going up and down the field in the first half, but we were scoring touchdowns while they stalled out a couple times," Carlson said.

There is a big difference between kids fresh out of high school and young men in their low 20s. Nearly the Saints' entire squad was freshmen in '08. Not anymore. The Saints' have 16 seniors, most of whom were on that first team. Sprinkle in a few quality underclassmen, like the punishing 6-foot-1, 185-pound Jensen, and you've got the makings of a winner.

"I'm proud of our football team, and I'm proud of our seniors," Carlson said. "Those guys got beat up pretty good as freshmen and sophomores, and now they're standing tall as seniors."

Real tall. Hickman said he isn't surprised by the Saints' rapid rise.

"They've always had the makings of a winner," Hickman said. "They're good at every sport, and there's no difference here. They're doing a great job. Hats off to them."

Minnesota-Morris 0-13-0-6--19

St. Scholastica 9-21-7-7--44

CSS -- Zack Dubanoski safety

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CSS -- Jake Jensen 11 run (Mike Theismann kick)

CSS -- Keegan O'Neill 21 pass from Alex Thiry (Theismann kick)

MM -- Derrick Foss 1 run (pass failed)

CSS -- Jensen 3 run (Theismann kick)

MM -- Brendon Foss 7 pass from Derrick Foss (Ross Kigner kick)

CSS -- Jensen 5 run (Theismann kick)

CSS -- Jensen 1 run (Theismann kick)

CSS -- O'Neill 21 pass from Thiry (Theismann kick)

MM -- Danny Kernan 34 pass from Daniel Garrian (kick blocked)

Related Topics: FOOTBALL
Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at jnowacki@duluthnews.com or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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