Watching the SMB Wolfpack and the Orono Spartans Saturday night in their section semi-final game at Blake, you just knew with the athletes the Wolfpack have on the offensive side of the ball, at some point, were going to make an impact.
For three quarters the Spartans kept the quartet of Division I level athletes contained. The Spartans led into the fourth quarter, but the Wolfpack scored the final thirteen points of the game to complete a comeback and earn a trip to the section finals with a 19-15 win.
The Orono combination of quarterback Nick Prentice and running back Fisher Eiss took the opening kickoff, and although they didn’t score any points, they allowed the punter to pin the Wolfpack deep. The defense forced a three and out.
Faced with a third and six, Prentice was flushed out of the pocket but found a receiver for a first down to set up the game’s first touchdown. It looked like SMB was going to get off the field forcing a fourth down and six, but Orono not only picked up the first down, but they turned a pass by Prentice down the seam to Chad Mrachek for a 28-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion made the score 8-0.
SMB quarterback Jalen Suggs got the short passing game going in the second quarter. The combination of his accurate arm and his feet set the Wolfpack up in the red zone, but the middle of the Spartans’ defense forced a fumble inside the ten-yard line. Ben Quinlivan jumped on the ball – giving the ball back to the Spartans.
Orono took that turnover and moved the ball all the way to the 36-yard line before punting to pin the Wolfpack deep. The Spartans would threaten again late in the first half but would go into the locker room with an 8-0 lead.
The Wolfpack drew first blood in the second half.
Suggs finally found wide receiver Craig McDonald on a deep post pattern to get into the red zone. Running back Siegal Howard powered his way inside the ten. After a fumbled pitch backed them up, McDonald drew a pass interference penalty. Suggs would finish the drive with a one-yard quarterback sneak. They were unable to convert on the two-point play, and Orono still had the lead.
Orono would answer right back. A big kickoff return set the Spartans up near midfield. They would convert on two fourth downs – including a fourth and two that would end up with a six-yard touchdown run by Prentice. Orono seemed to be in control up 15-6 early in the fourth quarter.
That is when the Wolfpack’s stars got loose.
Suggs wasted no time after falling behind by nine. He found McDonald on a deep post pattern for a 65-yard touchdown pass.
Just a few plays later SMB was back in business when defensive back Bobby Chancellor intercepted a tipped pass and gave his team the ball back at the Orono 25-yard line.
“The defense played great,” defensive end Kaden Johnson said. “The linebackers came strong, and the defensive line came to play. We put on a lot of pressure on their offense.”
Suggs would pick up a first down using his feet and then handed off to Howard who powered his way right up the middle. It was good for a 10-yard touchdown run and the Wolfpacks’ first lead with eight minutes to play.
SMB has dealt with injuries all season. They are finally healthy.
“We have had a next man up mentality all season,” Suggs said. “That next man up has stepped up all season. Now that we are healthy we are ready to roll. We had a lot of motivation – this team knocked us out last year.”
After both teams traded punts, Orono had two minutes to go 64 yards to get the win. They moved the ball to mid-field but faced with a fourth and six. Prentice tried to complete a pass to the outside, but McDonald knocked the pass away, giving the ball back to the Wolfpack offense.
The Wolfpack would run out the clock from there and win the game. SMB will face Benilde-St. Margaret’s on Friday.