Football: Elks have beaten St. Thomas, but that was a while ago

by Bruce Strand, Sports editor

It turns out that Elk River has a winning streak going against St. Thomas Academy, its state tournament opponent Friday night.

The local boys, we are told by local football historian Jon McLean, won the only previous meeting of the two schools. OK, that was in 1915, but still.

“Is that so? Well, we will have to keep it going then,” said Elk coach Steve Hamilton, when informed of the one-game streak in a rivalry finally being resumed 97 years later.

Told that the score was 20-0, he added, “So, they haven’t even scored on us!”

Chances are the Cadets have gotten over that loss by now, and chances are they’ll get into the end zone, too. The No. 4 ranked Cadets (9-1) are averaging 38 points per game as they face the Elks (6-5) at Osseo in the Class 5A quarterfinal starting at 7 p.m.

“They have four awfully good running backs and two good quarterbacks,” noted Hamilton. “They have a lot of good athletes on offense and some of them play defense, too.”

The Elks must  do what they do best.

“We will have to try to control the ball,” said Hamilton, “and keep their offense off the field.”

The Elks can usually do that, as they are averaging 334 ground yards per game (and very little through the air).

“But this time of the year, everybody you face is pretty good.”

The Elks quarterbacking corps (they’ve used three, all effectively) is dinged up but ready to play, with Austin Larson and Jordan Johnson each having ankle problems lately. Tight end Clay Elroy is the third option.

The ground game features Denis Bardashevskiy, already the Elks’ single-season rushing record holder with 1,835 yards, and with 18 touchdowns, one short of that record.

One player sidelined will be linebacker Colton Budreau, who was playing well in the game against STMA when he suffered a concussion making a tackle.

Cadets coach Dave Ziebarth told the Star News for article earlier this week: “This will be a real challenge for us and should be a very fun game. We are a team that loves to compete and Elk River seems to play the same way. Our kids are excited for the challenge of taking on Elk River on Friday night.”

This is the Elks fifth state appearances and St. Thomas Academy’s 21st. The Cadets have one state title (1975) and have been runner-up twice.

The other pairings are Mankato West (4-6) vs. Owatonna (10-0), Moorhead (10-0) vs. Bemidji (8-3), and top-ranked Totino-Grace (10-0) vs. Apple Valley (8-2).

Winners advance to semifinals in the Metrodome. The Elks-Cadets winner will face the Mankato West-Owatonna winner at 2 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 16.

“Being 48 minutes away from the Metrodome,” said Hamilton, “certainly is exciting.”