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Fifteen Woodbury boys helped Hill-Murray reach the state tournament this year. Seniors C.J. Ihle played defensive tackle for the Pioneers.

Hill-Murray football: Woodbury plays role in Pioneers' historic run

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The Hill-Murray football team reached its first state tournament appearance in over 25 years - and more than a few Woodbury boys had a hand in it.

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Fifteen players on the Pioneers' state tournament roster hail from Woodbury - including starting center Evan Janochoski, starting defensive tackle C.J. Ihle, starting defensive backs T.J. Garjaye and Matt Schwartz and placekicker Dylan Gonzalez (all of whom are seniors).

This season, under the tutelage of first-year head coach Brooks Bollinger - a former Minnesota Vikings quarterback - Hill-Murray earned a trip to state with a nail-biting 14-12 victory over the Mahtomedi Zephyrs in the Section 4AAAA championship back on Nov. 4. The Pioneers followed the historic win with a decisive 45-21 victory over Fairbault at East Ridge High School on Friday, Nov. 11, to advance to the Class AAAA state semifinal at the Metrodome.

In the semifinal, Hill-Murray's momentous run came to an end with a 37-35 loss to Rocori on Saturday, Nov. 19.

In the wild state semifinal showdown, down 37-21, Hill-Murray mounted a 14-point fourth quarter comeback to come within two points of the Spartans. However, with a first-and-10 at its own 21 and with 2:27 left in the game, a Hill-Murray pass was picked off by Rocori and the Spartans held on to defeat the Pioneers.

Janochoski helped lead an offense that put up 480 points, while Ihle was a force on the defensive line and Garajaye knocked down a number of passes and had a bunch of tackles in the defensive backfield. Also, Schwartz recovered a key fumble in the fourth quarter to help Hill-Murray mount its comeback and Gonzalez was a perfect 3-for-3 on extra points.

In addition to Janochoski, Ihle, Garjaye, Schwartz and Gonzalez, other Woodbury boys on the Pioneers' roster include: Jack Dwyer, Shane Finnegan, Lucas Glomb, Brennan Lafeber, Jeremy Lambert, Austin Finnegan, Ben Kocer, Ryan Eret, Mark Murphy and Jake Christenson.

Hill-Murray finished the season 9-3 overall.

See additional photos in the Nov. 23 issue of the Bulletin

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