Senior running back Patrick Forsythe scored twice, including a 60-yard fourth quarter touchdown run that sealed the victory, as the St. Cloud Bulldogs defeated arch-rival Harmony, 21-17, in the 16th edition of Soldier City Classic.
In what has become the county’s top rivalry, St. Cloud’s win – their second straight over the Longhorns and third in last five seasons – evened the all-time series at eight games each. Because of COVID-19 issues, the game was played in December for the first time – which made it tough on both schools.
“This is a great game and a great rivalry that means so much to the players on both sides of the ball,” St. Cloud Head Coach Bryan Smart noted. “This year was particularly tough on both schools with Covid cancellations and down time. It was our first game in over a month and I had serious concerns how our kids would react to having so much down time. But we had a veteran team with a lot of seniors and they did a fantastic job of keeping them together.”
“I spoke to Coach Smart before the game and we talked about what a strange year this has been,” Harmony Head Coach Don Simon added. “We started workouts in July, which is normal but then they shut down the season for what amounted to be six weeks. Then like St. Cloud we had to sit a month between this game and our last game. Essentially we had a six-month season and still only played nine times. Really tough to keep young kids focused for that period of time but I could not be prouder of how our players responded to it.”
Although neither coach would say the Soldier City Classic was an artistic game, they both noted how much fun and competitive it turned out. Harmony jumped out fast when Cooper Richards blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown for a 7-0 lead. Forsythe would then answer with a nine-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 7-6, before Harmony’s Kevin Lavigne booted a 41-yard field goal to up the lead to 10-6.
Garhett King closed out the scoring in the first quarter, hitting Jack Rilling on a 45-yard pass and run for another score to put St. Cloud up 13-10. Sophomore running back sensation Tyler Emans would then put the Longhorns back up with a 71-yard touchdown run to give Harmony a 17-13 lead at the half.
“That kid is something else,” Smart said about Emans, who rushed for more than 150 yards in the game and nearly 1000 yards in the abbreviated season. “He’s very fast and explosive, he’s going to be a great one for Harmony for the next couple of seasons.”
Trailing by four in the fourth quarter, a safety and Forsythe’s long touchdown run put St. Cloud ahead, but they still had to hold off one more Harmony drive to secure the victory. Forsythe finished the game with 190 yards rushing and two scores; while King threw for almost 200 yards. Senior Anthony Gonzalez had six catches for 102 yards.
“We made some mistakes that a young team is going to make,” Simon added. “To have the cancellations and delays we faced and to go 4-5 against a pretty tough schedule made this a satisfying season. We played a lot of sophomores and will have this core group together for another two seasons. We made a lot of progress from last year to this year, now we just need to keep the momentum going.”
St. Cloud finishes the season 7-3 according to MaxPreps, with a forfeit win and a forfeit loss due to COVID-19. Smart says the record should be 6-2.
“We were 6-2 on the field and did nothing to deserve a win or a loss by forfeit so that’s why we feel our record is 6-2. Regardless, we are going to have a lot of work to do in the off-season. We lose 26 seniors off of this team, including most of our playmakers on both sides of the ball.”
Those senior losses will include King (1,500 passing yards, 11 touchdowns), Forsythe (1,200 rushing yards, 15 touchdowns), Rilling (750 receiving yards, 4 touchdowns) and a defensive line standout in Kwasi Crudup.
“Those seniors deserve a lot of credit,” Smart said. “I’m not sure we could have got through this season without their desire and leadership.”