On Oct. 6, St. Mary’s senior quarterback Cole Gendreau experienced something he had never experienced before in a Saints’ uniform.
A second straight defeat.
St. Mary’s dropped a 24-22 decision to the Watford City Wolves that night, marking the first time since 2012 that it had lost back-to-back contests.
On Thursday night, Gendreau and the Saints made sure that skid didn't reach three games.
The senior threw for 218 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Saints to a 38-20 victory over the Central Cass Squirrels in a Class AA game played at the Community Bowl. Gendreau completed 14 of 18 passes for St. Mary’s, which raised its record to 6-2.
Gendreau has been on St. Mary's varsity roster since 2014. Over three-plus seasons, the Saints had won 39 of 41 games before losing to Fargo Shanley and Watford City in successive weeks (Sept. 29 and Oct. 6).
“Losing two in a row is something a lot of us aren't used to. We really wanted to get back on track tonight," said Gendreau, who also rushed for 65 yards. "We didn't play St. Mary's football the last couple of weeks and that was the plan tonight. It felt good to come out here and play the way we're capable of playing."
St. Mary’s coach Dan Smrekar said the Saints were anxious to right the ship.
"We talked about it all week. We knew we could have played better against Shanley and Watford City, and tonight we got back to playing our kind of football," he said. "We played with a lot of energy, we played tough, physical football, and we were well balanced offensively. It was good to see. We needed this one."
Senior fullback Jonah Krebs added 142 yards and two touchdowns on the ground for the Saints, who rolled up 457 total yards (218 passing, 239 rushing).
It took some time for the Saints to get rolling in their final regular-season home game. They fell behind 7-0 late in the first quarter after Squirrels quarterback Jonah Lietz scored from a yard out. After the ensuing kickoff, Krebs capped a quick 5-play, 57-yard scoring drive with a 33-yard burst, and Joel Huber kicked the tying extra point to begin a run of 38 unanswered points.
After forcing the Squirrels to punt, the Saints marched 72 yards to paydirt in eight plays, scoring on a 19-yard pass from Gendreau to Dylan Gross.
The next St. Mary’s possession ended with a fumble on the Squirrels' 32, but the Saints got the ball back with 1:20 remaining in the first half and didn't waste the opportunity. Starting from its own 43, the home team drove 48 yards in seven plays to the Central Cass 9. The whistle blew the ninth play dead with one second remaining, and Huber finished off the drive with a 26-yard field goal to make it 17-7. Gendreau was 4-for-6 for 39 yards on the drive.
"We didn't have much time, but we wanted to put some more points on the board before halftime," Gendreau said. "We used a no-huddle to hurry things up and we executed just about every play to put ourselves in a position for a field goal. Everybody did what they had to do to make it happen."
The Saints turned the ball over on their first possession of the second half, but three plays later, linebacker Branden Franhuk picked off a Lietz pass and returned it 30 yards to the end zone.
After a Central Cass punt, Krebs capped a 75-yard TD march with a 3-yard run.
Gendreau’s 43-yard scoring pass to Luke Kambeitz with 40 seconds left in the third quarter set the running clock in motion. Kambeitz had five receptions for 107 yards.
Lietz’s 29-yard TD pass to Jacob Halverson with 6:34 remaining in the game put a stop to the running clock. Later, Lietz and Carson Bultema connected for a 7-yard score. Lietz threw for 217 yards, but was only 17-for-42 passing.
"They like to put the ball in the air and I thought, overall, we played pretty good pass defense," Smrekar said. "They got a lot of their yards and points late in the game after we built a big lead."
The Saints will close out the regular season Wednesday night against Turtle Mountain in Belcourt.