Jalen Suggs and SMB were simply stunning down the stretch Thursday in the Class 4A semifinals.
The fourth-ranked Wolfpack turned in big play after big play to rally for a 23-15 win over Waseca and claim a spot in the Class 4A championship game. SMB, which is made up of St. Paul Academy, Minnehaha Academy and Blake, erased a five-point deficit in the fourth quarter and reeled off 13 points amid a furious fourth quarter. Siegel Howard ran in from 2 yards out with 8 minutes, 5 seconds left in the game to put the Wolfpack (12-0) in front 16-15 and then things got wild.
The Bluejays blocked a SMB punt and recovered the ball at the Wolfpack 20-yard line. On the next play SMB intercepted a pass and on its first play from scrimmage Suggs found Kaden Johnson for a 53-yard pass that set up a 15-yard run from Howard to put the Wolfpack up 23-15.
Howard rushed for 125 yards and a pair of touchdowns while Suggs threw for 180 yards on 15 of 21 passing. Suggs, who missed the first three weeks of the season due to a knee injury he suffered in an AAU basketball game in July, also rushed for 86 yards on 12 carries for SMB, which saw its season end last year in the quarterfinals to Orono.
Malik Willingham caught a pair of touchdown passes for Waseca (10-3) which came into the game averaging 46 points per game during a seven-game winning streak.
Hunter Rodriguez completed 8 of his 16 passes for 115 yards. Rodriguez also ran 15 times for 79 yards but Waseca, which ran for 376 yards last week against Winona, finished with just 135 against SMB.
The Wolfpack led 10-7 at halftime after Suggs found Craig McDonald for a 7-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter and Theo Crosby hit a 31-yard field goal.
The Bluejays scored on an 11-yard pass from Rodriguez to Willingham that tied the game with 8:16 to go in the first quarter.
Waseca grabbed a 15-10 lead after Rodriguez found a wide open Willingham for a 26-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. A two-point conversion run by Rodriguez made it 15-10.
SMB will face the winner of Willmar-St. Paul Johnson for the Class 4A title next Friday at 4 p.m. at U.S. Bank Stadium.
FIVE KEY PLAYS
Beginning with 5:46 left to play in the game, things eventually swung in SMB’s favor. It started poorly for the Wolfpack when Waseca forced a three-and-out. The Bluejays blocked the ensuing punt and Joe Hagen recovered it at the SMB 20-yard line.
Andrew Mollison intercepted a Hunter Rodriguez pass on Waseca’s first play from scrimmage with Rodriguez under pressure.
Once the Wolfpack took over Jalen Suggs found Kaden Johnson for a 53-yard gain and on the next play Siegel Howard ran in from 15 yards out to make it a 23-15 lead for SMB following an extra-point kick with 4:55 left to play.
The 15 points the Wolfpack gave up to the Bluejays equaled the most they have given up this season. Orono scored 15 on SMB in the the section tournament.