Defense and special teams proved to be big for North Platte St. Pat's on Thursday in its 23-0 first round win over Cambridge at Knights of Columbus Field.
"Defense and special teams wise, we played well," St. Pat's defensive coordinator Brent Aufdenkamp said. "It was a real battle, a dogfight. The kids will be sore tomorrow morning."
Neither team could get much going in the first quarter. St. Pat's (8-1) had good field position after a Cambridge punt from the Trojans' end zone went out of bounds at the 35 yard line. But the Irish came away empty handed.
Early in the second quarter, the St. Pat's offense started to get going. They converted on three straight third down situations and then on fourth down and four yards to go from the Cambridge five when quarterback Alex Harms carried the ball for the amount needed to move the chains.
After keeping the drive alive, Harms punched it in on the next play and the Irish took a 7-0 lead with 6:35 left in the first half.
The score remained 7-0 until the last play of the half when Drew McClellen made a school record 58-yard field goal with the strong wind to make it 10-0.
McClellen said that everything just came together on the attempt.
"I couldn't have done it without my holder, snapper and line," the junior said. "I was really nervous but we've practiced (field goals) a lot. You just got to play to the wind and hope for the best."
About five minutes into the second half, McClellen showed off his toe some more by making another field goal from 42 and he put the Irish up 13-0.
St. Pat's then stopped Cambridge on fourth down at the Trojan 30. But the Irish were again stopped short of the end zone and they had to settle for three again.
"We've got to find a way to move the ball more consistently," Aufdenkamp said. "We have to challenge our offense to score more touchdowns. Bless Drew's leg but we need touchdowns this time of year. I am no math guy but I know that seven adds up more than three."
St. Pat's finally got into the end zone in the fourth quarter. But it was the defense scoring and not the offense as Collin Pieper ran an intercepton back for a touchdown.
"Our defense played better than last week (in a loss to Hershey)," Aufdenkamp said.
After vanquishing Cambridge, the Irish will play Blue Hill in the second round on Wednesday at Knights of Columbus Field.
"Blue Hill is a good team with good size," Aufdenkamp said. "They've got a dual-threat quarterback and they run some spread."
Cambridge: 0 0 0 0 - 0
St. Pat's: 0 10 6 7 - 23
Second Quarter: SP-Alex Harms 1 run (Drew McClellen kick), 9:56, SP-McClellen 58 field goal, 0:00. Third Quarter: SP-McClellen 42 field goal, 7:06, SP-McClellen 32 field goal, 2:22. Fourth Quarter: SP-Collin Pieper 34 interception return (McClellen kick), 10:19