St. Cloud sizzles in Classic
By J. Daniel Pearson
For the News-Gazette
Quarterback Hunter Weismore directed four scoring drives and running back Bryan Johnson rushed for 188 yards and a pair of touchdowns as the St. Cloud Bulldogs rolled to a 30-15 win over Colonial before a large and enthusiastic home crowd in the Kickoff Classic.
“Although it doesn’t count in our season record, this was a big deal for our players, our coaches and our program,” Bulldogs Coach Bryan Smart said. “Since I’ve been here we haven’t won a spring game or a kickoff classic, so it felt good to get this game and get off to a great start.”
The Bulldogs got off to a slow start in the game, with was delayed nearly two hours because of thunderstorms. St. Cloud drove 55 yards on eight plays, but the drive stalled at the Grenadiers 15 after two running plays were stuffed. On their next three possessions, St. Cloud had a net -7 yards on 12 plays.
St. Cloud fell behind 7-0 when Colonial quarterback Kendall Williams directed a 10-play, 70-yard drive capped by an 18-yard touchdown pass to Ramon Gordon.
Williams’ touchdown drive seemed to wake up both the Bulldog offense and defense. On its next possession, St. Cloud marched 70 yards on eight plays to knot the score at 7. A pass interference penalty and a 25-yard pass from Weismore to Trevill Holcy were the key plays of the drive.
On their first possession of the second half, the Bulldogs would take the lead for good when Johnson’s fumble at the goal line was recovered in the end zone by Cole Hannon for a touchdown. The key play in the drive was Johnson’s 20-yard run followed by two personal foul penalties on Colonial.
Johnson’s 63-yard run to the Colonial 1 yard line set up St. Cloud’s next score. After an illegal shift penalty, Weismore hit Reace Austin on a 6-yard scoring pass to make it 20-7.
On the next series, the Bulldogs drove 65-yards on eight plays to take a 27-7 lead. Johnson was once again the workhorse, carrying the ball four times for 56 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown run.
St. Cloud concluded its scoring on a 42-yard field goal by Andrew Bogaenko.
Weismore completed 7 of 15 passes for 79 yards and a touchdown. He was victimized by four dropped passes in the first half. “Hunter played well and, frankly, it’s going to be important for us to keep him upright and healthy this season,” Smart said.
St. Cloud’s defense played well. After scoring their touchdown in the second quarter, the Grenadiers were limited to just 55 net yards on their next five possessions. Colonial finally put together a late scoring drive against the Bulldogs second team defense, moving 70 yards on six plays. A Chris Rivera 7-yard touchdown run and a 2-point conversion wrapped up the scoring.
“We sort of got off to a slow start but in the second half our offense took control of the game,” Smart said. “We spent a lot of the off-season on conditioning and I think it is going to pay off. ”
St. Cloud opens the season Thursday at 8 p.m. at the ESPN Wide World of Sports against Eagle Crest (Centennial, Col.).