By: J. Daniel Pearson
For the fourth time in five years and the 10th time since the rivalry began in 2005, the Brass Bugle Trophy is headed back to St. Cloud High. The Bulldogs earned it with a 21-0 win over arch-rival Harmony in the 19th playing of the Soldier City Classic before a big crowd at Austin Tindall Park on Friday night.
“That’s an ugly trophy,” a grinning St. Cloud coach Mike Short said as his players passed it around for pictures. “But it’s going to look great in our trophy case for the next year. We’ve had a really good season but this is the game that makes it a great season.”
Somewhat surprisingly, it was the Bulldog defense and not its potent offense that led the way to the victory. The Dogs limited Harmony to just 113 yards in the game, forced three turnovers and turned them away from the red zone three times in the first half for the win.
Taking advantage of some mistakes, it was the Longhorns that had the best chance of scoring in the first half.
After taking over on a shanked punt, Harmony drove the ball inside the 15-yard line. On the next series, they took over on the St. Cloud 27 after an interception and on St. Cloud’s following possession; they stuffed them for a three-yard loss on a fourth and one and took over on the Bulldogs’ 23. Despite the excellent field position, Harmony ended up with zero points with a fumble and two missed field goals.
It was also special teams play and the St. Cloud defense that allowed the Bulldogs to take a 7-0 lead at halftime.
Adrian Gonzalez’s 51-yard punt with less than a minute to go pinned Harmony at its own 20. But on its second play from scrimmage the Longhorns fumbled and St. Cloud recovered. On the next play, Logan King hit Alex Springs on a 20-yard touchdown pass.
“Giving up that touchdown was totally on me and not our team,” Harmony coach Nick Lippert said. “Because we were pinned deep and were scheduled to get the second half kickoff, we just wanted to run the clock out. I should have been more specific and ordered the quarterback to take a knee.”
That mistake gave St. Cloud momentum, which they carried over into the second half. A fired up defense held Harmony to a three and out and after taking possession on their own 40 after a punt, the Bulldogs ran the ball 10 straight times with TJ Griffin carrying it over from the five for a 14-0 lead. Griffin carried the ball nine times for 39 yards on the drive; while WR Owen Conner ripped off a 21-yard run on a flanker reverse.
Trailing by two scores, the Longhorns had one more chance to get back in the game when Ivaniel Ramos blocked a Bulldog punt to give Harmony a first down on the St. Cloud 23 late in the third quarter. But four plays netted just one yard and Harmony turned the ball over on downs.
After each team registered an interception, St. Cloud would put the game away in the fourth quarter. Taking over on their own 40 with 6:15 remaining, the Bulldogs would drive 60 yards on 11 plays with Jonathan Morales capping the drive with a 5-yard touchdown run. Morales recorded runs of 17, 8, 12, 12 and 5 yards on the drive.
Morales (73 yards -1 TD) and Griffin (74 yards-1 TD) led the St. Cloud offense that finished with almost 200 yards on the ground. That running game made up for a tough night of passing for King, who finished just 9 of 18 passes for 38 yards with two interceptions.
Still it was enough to win the game.
“It was a combination of several things, but our running game took over in the second half. Unfortunately they lost several players to injury but we also knew that they were getting tired from the amount of time they were on the field so we really went up-tempo,” Short said. “But at the end of the day, give our defense a lot of credit. They played lights out tonight and gave us a second straight shutout.”
Lippert agreed with that assessment. “Frankly from what we saw on film and scouting that was their best defensive effort of the year,” the first year coach said. “Still, our defense played really well tonight but we made too many mistakes on offense, didn’t take advantage of the breaks we had and lost some key players to injury. No excuses though, they deserved to win.”
With the win, St. Cloud goes to 7-3 in the season and will be working on playing a possible Bowl Game at their new home field on Wednesday night. Short, who is now 14-6 in his two seasons with St. Cloud, is looking forward to that challenge. “We tried to set up something last year for a Bowl Game and for several reasons it did not happen,” Short said. “Our kids, especially our seniors, have earned the right for one more game.”
Harmony finished its season at 2-8.
SC: Alex Springs 20 pass from Logan King (Adrian Gonzalez kick)
SC: TJ Griffin 5 yard run (Gonzalez kick)
SC: Jonathan Morales 5 run (Gonzalez kick)
SOLDIER CITY CLASSIC RESULTS
St. Cloud Leads (10-9-0)
- 2005 Harmony, 17-14
- 2006 Harmony, 68-7
- 2007 Harmony, 49-0
- 2008 St. Cloud, 17-14
- 2009 St. Cloud, 28-21
- 2010 St. Cloud, 28-7
- 2011 St. Cloud, 46-6
- 2012 Harmony, 26-20
- 2013 Harmony, 12-7
- 2014 Harmony, 14-2
- 2015 St. Cloud, 57-13