Moorhead and his new offensive look entered Friday’s season opener against St. Cloud Tech at Jim Gotta Stadium, eager to prove themselves. It’s not a reload year for Moorhead, and the Spuds made it clear on Friday with a 49-13 win over the Tigers, who had won the last two meetings between the teams.
Moorhead wasted no time turning those preseason question marks into exclamation marks. The Spuds found the end zone in their six first-half practices to take a dominant 42-0 halftime lead.
“We’re really happy with the way our kids came out and played in the first half,” said Spuds head coach Kevin Feeney. “I thought in our first game, which was St. Cloud Tech’s second, I thought our kids performed really well on offense, defense and special teams.”
Aside from having to take a time out in the first part of the game because a guy didn’t come out, things went well. The Spuds opened with a 13-game player that ate 5 minutes, 43 seconds off the clock. Junior quarterback Gavin Quade, who had six total touchdowns on Friday, capped the first down with a 5-yard touchdown on his debut.
Mekhi Elmore of Moorhead momentarily pops the ball en route to a touchdown against St. Cloud Tech during their season opener on Friday, September 3, 2021, in Moorhead. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Moorhead went 7-0 last year and won a “Mythical” Class 5A State Championship by taking first place in the latest Associated Press poll.
“I think there were a lot of expectations for this 2020 team and the style of football that we played, and I wanted to know what kind of DNA our football team had,” said Feeney. “I think today they kind of understood their identity.
The Spuds have had to replace some big names in key places, including at quarterback. Quade was tasked with leading the new offense this season after double-threat QB Trey Feeney, Kevin’s son, graduated this spring. Feeney, in his freshman year at the University of North Dakota, was the 2020 Minnesota Gatorade Player of the Year.
“I think he’s sat in Trey’s shadow for the past two years, and for his first college football game, it’s a hell of a start for him,” Feeney said. “I thought he kept his cool very well. I thought he had been hit a bit, and he bounced back. “
Moorhead’s Jamal Dixon slips a defender en route to a touchdown against St. Cloud Tech in their season-opener football game on Friday, September 3, 2021, in Moorhead. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Quade has shown he is more than capable for the job. He threw five touchdowns to help Moorhead claim the season opener.
“It’s awesome,” Quade said. “I have to give credit to my offensive line, to my receivers, to my running backs; They all did a great job. “
After Moorhead’s first possession of the game, there was no doubt that the Spuds’ offense had reloaded. UND football engagement Jamal Dixon went wild for a 55-yard touchdown to take Moorhead’s lead to 14-0 early in the second quarter.
Although the Spuds played under clear skies with temperatures in the ’60s, Quade stormed the Tigers by bolstering Moorhead’s lead with four scores in the air. Mekhi Elmore had two touchdown receptions in the first three and a half minutes of the period as the duo extended Moorhead’s lead to 28-0.
Moorhead head coach Kevin Feeney cheers on his players during their season-opener against St. Cloud Tech on Friday, September 3, 2021 in Moorhead. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Quade continued the second quarter assault with a 38-yard touchdown to Cameron Loken and an 11-yard pass to Michael Haugo.
The first downs were invaluable for the Tigers, who were stifled by the Moorhead defense. St. Cloud Tech’s five possessions in the first half ended in a punt or fumble. Behind a stellar defensive performance and a powerful attacking offense, the Spuds stunned STC, who were looking to bounce back from a 20-6 season opener loss last week to Sartell.
Defense was never in question for Moorhead, who returned talent and experience.
“We have a lot of guys who played a lot of football on Friday nights before that and we thought they might have to carry us a bit, but I thought we were playing very complementary football today,” Feeney said.
Damarius Fletcher exploded for a 75-yard touchdown run that put STC on the board four minutes into the third quarter.
The Spuds responded immediately with a 37-yard touchdown pass from Quade to John Jenkins. But the Tigers weren’t going to go away easily.
STC’s Cody Brott made his way into the end zone with just over a minute to go to reduce Moorhead’s lead and establish the decisive score.