ST. ANSGAR — If ever a football team was built for the erratic weather of fall, it is St. Ansgar.
The Saints can control the line of scrimmage on both sides and sport a power running game that can plow through a wet and muddy field.
In the opening round of the Class A playoffs on Friday night, St. Ansgar squared off against an East Buchanan team with a similar look, but the Saints wore out the Buccaneers in the second half and pulled away for a 33-17 win.
“I thought up front we played well offensively,” St. Ansgar coach Drew Clevenger said. “And our defense continues to get better.”
A persistent snow and brisk northwest winds created a slippery field that played a role from the start of the game.
St. Ansgar broke out early when Josh Van Vliet broke through the right side of the line and scampered 58 yards for a score on the game’s opening possession.
East Buchanan tied the score on its first possession before the game settled into a defensive battle.
The Saints surrendered the ball deep in their own territory twice, but the defense came up big both times as it limited the Buccaneers to one field goal midway through the third quarter that gave East Buchanan a brief 10-7 lead.
The Saints responded with a pair of touchdowns over an eight-minute span, the first on a 46-yard run by Collin Kramer and the second on a one-yard plunge by Jack Sievert.
The big play of the game, though, came with 5:51 remaining when, following an interception by Adam Williams deep in St. Ansgar territory, Van Vliet again split the right side of the line and bolted for a 90-yard touchdown to effectively put the game out of reach.
“Josh is a quality player,” Clevenger said. “He has been a great program player and is stepping up in his senior year.”
Dayton Smith added a short touchdown run with 1:08 remaining.
For the game, St. Ansgar outgained the Buccaneers 388-210. Van Vliet led the Saints with 207 yards rushing.
St. Ansgar (10-0) advanced to Friday’s quarterfinals and a rematch of last year’s semifinal loss to Gladbrook-Reinbeck. This time, though Gladbrook-Reinbeck will make the trek to St. Ansgar.
“Every team is a good team at this point,” Clevenger said. “(Gladbrook-Reinbeck) is well-coached, but it is probably a benefit to get them outdoors.”