St. Mary's hadn't played a football game since Oct. 18, but the Saints looked anything but rusty on a cold Saturday afternoon.
There was an early fumble, but St. Mary's was dominant on both sides of the ball in its 30-0 Class AA semifinal victory over Devils Lake at the Community Bowl. With the win, the Saints (8-2) earned a spot in the state championship game for the second year in a row and the fourth time in five years. They will face No. 1-ranked Fargo Shanley (10-0) -- a 17-6 winner over Watford City on Saturday -- at 3 p.m., Friday afternoon at the Fargodome.
The Saints racked up 224 total yards in the first half while building a 23-0 advantage. Their defense, meanwhile, held the Firebirds to 29 yards.
"We were pumped and hyped to play today. We hadn't played a game in a long time, so we were ready," said Saints' running back Jonah Krebs. "We had two good weeks of practice and the coaches did a great job getting us prepared. Offense, defense ... everybody played well."
Krebs did his part, rushing for 152 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound senior, who ran for 104 markers in the first half, has topped the 100-yard mark in each of his last three games.
"Jonah is doing a terrific job running the ball," said St. Mary's coach Dan Smrekar. "He closed out the (regular) season with a couple of big games and we made it a point to get him the ball today. He's a tough, physical runner -- the type of back that we've had lots of success with the last several years."
The Saints rushed for 242 yards and added 122 through the air. Senior quarterback Cole Gendreau completed eight of 11 passes for 99 yards in the first 24 minutes and finished 10-for-15. He connected with five different receivers.
"We're pretty balanced offensively. That makes it really tough on a defense," Krebs said. "Our running game got off to a slow start this year, but it got better each week. Our offensive line is doing an awesome job. Today anybody could have had a big day running behind those guys."
Krebs got the Saints rolling with a 54-yard touchdown run with 8:17 remaining in the first quarter. The first of three Joey Huber extra points made it 7-0.
Later, a partially-blocked Devils Lake punt rested on the Firebirds' 45-yard line, and 11 plays later, Krebs scored from eight yards out to extend the Saints' lead to 13-0.
After coming up empty on each of its next two possessions, St. Mary's put together a 10-play drive that ended with Huber's 30-yard field goal with 1:04 left in the second quarter.
The Saints were back in business less than a minute later. Dylan Gross intercepted a Jagger Miller pass on the Firebirds' 34 with 18.2 seconds remaining, and on the next play, Gendreau and Luke Kambeitz -- who made a one-handed catch -- connected for a 26-yard gain to the 8. Gendreau then finished off the short drive with an 8-yard keeper, and Huber followed with the PAT.
Gendreau's 13-yard touchdown run with 9:16 left in the contest closed the scoring.
After a 29-yard first half, the Firebirds' offense came to life, but turned the ball over on downs on the St. Mary's 26- and 20-yard lines on back-to-back possessions.
"We gave up some yards in the second half, but we kept them out of the end zone," Smrekar said. "I thought we played a very good game defensively. It was fun to watch. The kids played fast ... they were flying to the football today."
St. Mary's will seek its fourth Class AA state championship, as well as some redemption on Friday. The Saints dropped a tough 17-14 decision to Shanley on Sept. 29.
"We have quite a rivalry going with Shanley and we're looking forward to playing them again," Krebs said. "We came up short the first time. Hopefully this time we'll play better."