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New Life Academy football: Hill-Murray offense too much for Eagles in 39-0 playoff loss

New Life Academy junior quarterback Seth Rice looks for an open receiver in the Eagles’ playoff game against Hill-Murray. Hill-Murray won the game 39-0. (Bulletin photo by Matthew Davis)

New Life Academy found themselves overmatched again by a Classic Suburban squad in the postseason.

The Hill-Murray Pioneers steamrolled the Eagles 39-0 in the Class 4A, Section 4 quarterfinals on Tuesday night.

“We describe it as fighting the good fight, but we lost,” Eagles coach Paul Mork said. “We gave our best, but they were better.”

Two first quarter rushing touchdowns by senior running back Dusty Krueger of 72 and 68 yards put the Pioneers in command 14-0.

“You stop them 20 times, but then they get that one break that just takes it,” Eagles senior captain tight end West Berg said. “It just breaks your back.”

The Eagles saw the gap widen in the second quarter with another pair of touchdown drives by the Pioneers offense for a 26-0 lead. Eagles junior quarterback Seth Rice took two sacks and threw a pair of interceptions in the quarter. He finished with 10-15 passing an 156 yads.

Then, another pair of rushing touchdowns by Krueger and junior receiver Marshawn Wilson respectively buried the Eagles in the third quarter, 39-0. The Eagles offense continued to struggle in the second half as they mustered 62 yards rushing for the game. The Pioneers rolled up 286 yards rushing and 378 total yards for the game.

“They’re a good team,” Eagles senior captain lineman Jacob Salkowicz said. “We just didn’t execute as good as we should have.”

For the second year in a row, the Eagles bowed out of the postseason to a Classic Suburban Conference team by a large margin. The Pioneers (4-5, 2-5 Classic Suburban) came in with a losing record, but the larger school from a competitive league prevailed. The Eagles lost to conference champion South Saint Paul 43-0 in 2012.

“They’re in a very tough league,” Mork said of the Pioneers. “We’re in a good league, but their record is more deceptive because of the type of people that they’re playing.”

The Eagles end the season at 2-7 overall and 1-4 on the road. The Pioneers will move on to play St. Paul Johnson in the section semifinals on Saturday, seeking their fourth-straight section finals appearance.

“We should have had more wins, but we can’t go back now,” Salkowicz said. “It was a fun season.”

Despite the record, Mork and his team look more to attitude and effort. The players high-fived each other and embraced following the game, congratulating each other on a hard-fought season — a sight not always seen in a section loss.

“My college coach wrote a book called, “The Verdict of the Scoreboard,” elaborating on the mistake of judging a team’s success by only wins and losses,” Mork said. “I truly believe the 2013 Eagles were 7-2 or 8-1 in regards to attitudes, work ethic, and lessons learned. I am proud of their efforts throughout.”

-Matthew Davis