Football: Hill-Murray downs Johnson, 42-22, to advance in playoffs

Johnson junior quarterback Javaughn Elizay (7) hands off to sophomore running back Kejuon Burton (4) during Section 4AAAA semifinal action. Johnson lost to Hill-Murray 42-22 at Harding Oct. 26. (Linda Baumeister/Review)

Hill-Murray junior Marshawn Wilson stretches towards the goal line, one of two touchdowns, as Johnson defenders DeMarko Venton (32) and Todd Wyberila (3) are in on the down. The Pioneers won 42-22 in the Section 4AAAA semifinal held at Harding Oct. 26. (Linda Baumeister/Review)

Pioneers were ‘hitting on all cylinders’

Wally Wakefield
Review staff

Hill-Murray 42 - Johnson 22

Almost before the sparse number of spectators had settled into their seats and wrapped their blankets around their shoulders at Bakken Field on the Harding High School campus, the Hill-Murray Pioneers had built a lead they would not surrender in the Section 4, Class AAAA football playoff game with the Johnson Governors on Saturday, Oct. 26.

After the 20-point triumph, Hill-Murray first-year head coach Tony Danna said, “When you score that many points at the beginning of a game, you put the other team in a tough situation.

“We had all three phases of our game working today. We were hitting on all cylinders, and it showed early on.

“Our special teams made a difference today. That, and our defense and offense complemented each other. It was a good win. Now we’ll try to extend our success,” Danna said.

Hill-Murray won the coin toss and opted not to take the opening kickoff. The Governors went 3-and-out, and the Pioneers took over at their 37-yard line. It took just four plays for the Pioneers to score.

An 8-yard run by Dusty Krueger blasted up the middle for six points. A two-point conversion run failed, but just 3:55 into the game Hill-Murray was up 6-0.

On their next possession, the Governors went nowhere. On fourth down, Hill-Murray’s Davis Zarembinski smothered a punt. It rolled back toward the Johnson end zone where Conor Nath scooped it up at the 10-yard line and ran in for six points.

Krueger went in for a two-point conversion, and Hill-Murray was on top 14-0 with 5:26 remaining in the first quarter.

Again the Governors could not advance the ball. Hill-Murray junior running back Sam Westby gathered in the ball, eluded a would-be tackler and set off on a 46-yard punt return into pay dirt.

With three minutes remaining in the first quarter, Brennan LaFeber booted the point after and Hill-Murray’s lead extended to 21-0.

Hill-Murray defensive lineman junior Connor Thury, a junior, recovered the ball at the Johnson 12. A 10-yard penalty put the ball back on the Governors’ 22.

A pass - 19 yards from Nick Engels to Alex Ogren - moved the ball to the 3-yard line. From there, Krueger plunged in for the score. LaFeber added the PAT and with 1:42 left in the first, it was 28-0 Pioneers.

Play moved into the second quarter and the Johnson fortunes continued to fare poorly.

A fourth-down attempt failed, and Hill-Murray took over at the Johnson 23. Just 3:16 into the second quarter Marshawn Wilson pushed over from 1-yard out. LaFeber booted the PAT and it became 35-0.

A Johnson pass was picked off by senior linebacker John Eger, but this time the Hill-Murray offense was stymied by the Governors.

On its next offensive thrust, Hill-Murray finished a six-play, 43-yard drive when Engels hit Wilson on a 9-yard aerial in the end zone. LaFeber’s point after was true, and Hill-Murray was on top by 42-0 with 1:44 remaining before halftime.

The second half was all Johnson as Hill-Murray inserted its reserve players.

As play moved into the second session, the Governors put together a nine-play, 80-yard drive. A huge chunk of the 80 yards was a 32-yard jaunt by Malik Menifee to the Hill-Murray 10.

From there, quarterback Sam Moberg connected on a 10-yard aerial with Jalen Mobley. Moberg then ran in for a two-point conversion, and the Governors were on the board at 8-42.

Play moved into the fourth quarter with Johnson again on the move. Just 2:12 into the final 12 minutes Tre’vion Brown broke free for a 10-yard jaunt into pay dirt. A two-point conversion attempt failed, but Hill-Murray’s lead had been trimmed to 42-14.

Later in the quarter, Johnson took over on its 33. The 67-yard drive ended when Brown again broke free and sped 18 yards for a touchdown.

This time Moberg hit Mobley for two points and the final score, 42-22, was posted.

Next up, the Pioneers faced Classic Suburban Conference nemesis South St. Paul in the Section 4AAAA championship game Friday, Nov. 1, at the Packers’ home field. The winner of that game advances to the state tournament.

Contact Wally Wakefield at

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