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Moorhead’s new-look offense, stout defense too much for St. Cloud Tech in season opener

Gavin Quade accounted for six total touchdowns to help lift Moorhead to a 49-13 win over St. Cloud Tech

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Moorhead's Gavin Quade stretches for a touchdown against St. Cloud Tech during their football season opener Friday, Sept. 3, 2021, in Moorhead. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

MOORHEAD — The Moorhead Spuds entered this football season with some question marks on the offensive side of the ball. The Spuds graduated their three-year starting quarterback, top four receivers and leading rusher.

Moorhead and its new-look offense entered Friday’s season opener against St. Cloud Tech at Jim Gotta Stadium eager to prove itself. This is not a reloading year for Moorhead, and the Spuds made that clear Friday with a statement-making 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 points. The Spuds found the end zone in all six of their first-half drives to mount a dominant 42-0 halftime lead.

“We're really pleased with the way our kids came out and played in the first half,” Spuds head coach Kevin Feeney said. “I thought for our first game, which was St. Cloud Tech's second game, I thought our kids really executed really well on offense, defense and in special teams.”

Other than having to take a timeout in the first play of the game because one guy didn’t go out, things went smoothly. The Spuds opened with a 13-play drive that ate up 5 minutes, 43 seconds of the clock. Junior quarterback Gavin Quade, who accounted for six total touchdowns Friday, capped the opening drive with a 5-yard touchdown run in his starting debut.

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Moorhead's Mekhi Elmore momentarily bobbles the ball on his way to a touchdown against St. Cloud Tech during their football season opener Friday, Sept. 3, 2021, in Moorhead. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Moorhead went 7-0 last year and won a “mythical” Class 5A state championship by earning the top spot in the final Associated Press poll.

“I think there were a lot of expectations on that 2020 team and the style of football that we played, and I wanted to find out what kind of DNA our football team had," Feeney said. "I think today they kind of figured out their identity.”

The Spuds had to replace some big names in key places, including at quarterback. Quade was tasked with leading the new offense this season after dual-threat QB Trey Feeney, Kevin’s son, graduated this spring. Feeney, in his freshman season at the University of North Dakota, was Minnesota's Gatorade Player of the Year in 2020.

“I think he sat in the shadows of Trey for the last couple of years, and for his first varsity football game, it’s a heck of a start for him,” Feeney said. “I thought he kept his composure really well. I thought he got hit a little bit, and he bounced up."

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Moorhead's Jamal Dixon slips a defender on his way to a touchdown against St. Cloud Tech during their football season opener Friday, Sept. 3, 2021, in Moorhead. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

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Quade showed he was more than capable for the job. He threw for five touchdowns to help lift Moorhead to the season-opening win.

“It feels great,” Quade said. “Gotta give credit to my offensive line, receivers, running backs; they all did a great job.”

After Moorhead’s first possession of the game, there was no question that the Spuds offense had reloaded. UND football commit Jamal Dixon broke loose for a 55-yard rushing touchdown to push Moorhead’s lead to 14-0 entering the second quarter.

Though the Spuds played under clear skies with temperatures in the 60s, Quade took the Tigers by storm as he padded Moorhead’s lead with four scores through the air. Mekhi Elmore hauled in two touchdown receptions in the first three and a half minutes of the frame as the duo stretched Moorhead’s lead to 28-0.

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Moorhead's Head Coach Kevin Feeney encourages his players during their football season opener against St. Cloud Tech Friday, Sept. 3, 2021, in Moorhead. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Quade continued the second-quarter onslaught with a 38-yard touchdown strike to Cameron Loken and 11-yard TD pass to Michael Haugo.

First downs were at a premium for the Tigers, who were smothered by Moorhead’s defense. All five of St. Cloud Tech’s first-half possessions ended in a punt or fumble. Behind a stellar defensive performance and high-powered offensive attack, the Spuds stunned STC, which was looking to rebound from a 20-6 season-opening loss last week against Sartell.

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Defense was never in question for Moorhead, which returned talent and experience.

“We have a lot of guys that played a lot of football on Friday nights prior to this and we figured that they might have to carry us up a little bit, but I thought we played very complementary football today," Feeney said.

Damarius Fletcher exploded for a 75-yard touchdown run that got STC on the board four minutes into the third quarter.

The Spuds responded right away 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 found his way into the end zone with just over a minute remaining to cut Moorhead’s lead and set up the game-clinching score.

M 14 28 7 0—49

SCT 0 0 7 6—13

M — Quade 5 run (Elmore kick)
M — Dixon 55 run (Elmore kick)
M — Elmore 19 pass from Quade (Elmore kick)
M — Elmore 17 pass from Quade (Feeney kick)
M — Loken 35 pass from Quade (Feeney kick)
M — Haugo 11 pass from Quade (Feeney kick)
SCT — Fletcher 75 run (Gottwalt kick)
M — Jenkins 37 pass from Quade (Feeney kick)
SCT — Brott 11 run (Gottwalt kick failed)

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A pass to Moorhead's Alonn Salman is broken up by St. Cloud Tech during their football season opener Friday, Sept. 3, 2021, in Moorhead. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

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