HEWITT It's a very tough feat to win back-to-back state championships.
The Shiner St. Paul football team, along with trainers, managers, ball boys,coaches and Rev. Bryan Heyer , gather around the TAPPS Division IV State Championship trophy Friday afternoon at Midway ISD Panther Stadium in Hewitt. St. Paul defeated Arlington Grace Prep. 49-34, to win its second consecutive state title in football.
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all photos by Mark Lube
Now St. Paul can add that to its list of football accomplishments after defeating Arlington Grace Prep 49-34 Friday afternoon ( December 2, 2016 ) at Midway ISD's Panther Stadium in the TAPPS IV state title game with a smashmouth ground game and a defense that got better as the game progressed, making key stops in the second half.
St. Paul had difficulty containing the Lions' spread offense in the first half, trailing 27-21 at the half, but kept going at it, holding their opponent to just seven second-half points and forcing some turnovers.
"Arlington Grace Prep is a heck of a team. They have guys all over the field that can make plays. We were just trying to figure out a way to get one stop just one time," St. Paul head coach Jake Wachsmuth said. "Fortunately, we were able to get a couple of turnovers at crucial moments."
St. Paul forced three turnovers and more importantly, did not have one of its own.
"We had not stopped them for most of the game; we got those second-half stops and some late turnovers. Our defense stepped up and made some plays at the right moment," senior defensive back-quarterback Austin Barton said.
"We have gone several games without committing turnovers. Earlier in the year, that was killing us. We would have several in a game," Wachsmuth said. "You are not going to win games like that. You are not going to necessarily win games when you do not have turnovers but you have a better chance to win when you do not lose the ball. The fact that we created a couple late in the game today was huge."
The Cardinals offense provided a solid paradigm on how to hang onto the football and keep your defense resting on the sidelines.
St. Paul ran the football 62 times out of 67 total offensive plays and took their time putting the football in the end zone.
The St. Paul offensive line, including Jack Janecek, Max Patek, Alex Hull and Josh Haynes, delay the Grace Prep defense's journey into the St. Paul backfield. The Cardinal line helped the offensive backs gain a total of 459 yards on the ground in Friday's ( December 2, 2016 ) win in the TAPPS IV State Championship game.
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This was in stark contrast to the wide-open spread offense of Arlington Grace Prep.
The Lions ran five plays and used less than two minutes for their first drive in which they scored while the Cardinals' first drive, that also resulted in points, was 17 plays in length and utilized over nine minutes.
"Our line was the key to us controlling the clock. Four or five yards on carry on ground-and-pound is what we wanted to do," Barton said.
"Both teams have good offenses; they are just different," Wachsmuth said, comparing the pass-heavy offense of the Lions to the St. Paul system of pounding the ball on the ground old school. "You want to limit how many times the other team's offense touches the ball. We were satisfied with three or four yards a pop."
Conor Kresta had a monstrous game as he rushed for 322 yards and five touchdowns, a testament to the great play of the Cardinal offensive line and the other backs in the backfield.
"Arlington Grace knew what we'd do on offense; we knew what we were going to do. We just did it," Wachsmuth said.
St. Paul lost about 10 seniors from the 2015 state championship team and people wondered how much of a chance the Cardinals had in getting back to the state title game.
"We (coaches, current players) met at the end of last year to discuss our goals for the 2016 season," he said. "We struggled early in the season. I don't know what happened but we kept on working and they kept believing and plugging away. Sometimes, it works for you."
Wachsmuth said the 2016 seniors might have been a little overshadowed as juniors because of the accomplishments of the 2015 seniors but added the Class of 2016 shined brightly when it was their time to lead.
Jacob Darilek makes life a little uneasy for Lions quarterback Jeremiah Tucker.
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"Every one of our 2016 seniors contributed today," he said. "I am so proud of them."
The 2016 seniors conclude their high school career with back-to-back-state championships.
"It is unbelievable. It's a dream come true. The other seniors and myself have had a heck of a ride here at St. Paul," Barton said. "I could not ask for anything more."
At the start of the game, Lions quarterback Jeremiah Tucker completed his first two passes for 21 yards then ran the ball twice for 50 more yards and on the fifth play, handed off to Brendan Walters for a 1-yard run that capped a five-play 75-yard drive for a 7-0 lead.
Cardinals started at their 25 at the 10:43 mark and rode the legs of Kresta, along with carries from tailback/fullback Joseph Natal and Barton. A 13-yard run by Kresta with a 1:34 left in the quarter brought the game to a 7-7 score line.
The Lions got from their 27 to their 49 on two more pass completions but then had the ball stripped on the next play after a completion, giving St. Paul a first down on the Lion side of the 50. The Cardinals took just four plays to go 49 yards and a 36-yard run by Natal put St. Paul ahead 14-7.
The Lions came right back with a four-play, 61-yard drive that was concluded with a 14-yard run by Tucker.
St. Paul responded with a 75-yard march in 13 plays with Kresta occasionally taking a handoff from the fullback spot. He capped the seven-minute drive with a 1-yard run for a 21-14 Cardinal advantage.
Arlington Grace Prep made two quick scores in the last two minutes of the first half. A 24-yard pass from Jeremiah Tucker to Matthew Tucker capped a four-play 68-yard drive in just 44 seconds.
Cardinals players congratulate each other after the final whistle.
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Then the Lions forced St. Paul to go three and out inside the Cardinal 20 and the Lions started at their 46 for a fast 54-yard drive in three plays. Jeremiah Tucker had a 49-yard pass to Walters and found him two plays later for a 10-yard touchdown pass. Barton was able to block the point after, leaving the Lions ahead 27-21 at halftime.
At the start of the third quarter, St. Paul scored quickly on a 75-yard drive with a 52-run by Kresta to give his side a 28-27 lead.
The Tuckers collaborated once again, a 14-yard from Jeremiah to Matthew for a 34-28 Lions lead.
Next, Kresta polished off another 75-yard drive for the Cardinals on a 5-yard run with 3:38 left in the third.
Early in the fourth quarter, Grace Prep had a drive stall out near midfield and punted for the first and only time in the game. The punt pinned the Cardinals at their 2. St. Paul got the ball all the way to their 44 before a Barton pass fell incomplete on fourth down.
On the very next play, Cardinals stripped the ball away from the Lion receiver after a short reception; St. Paul's Alex Hull recovered at the minus-46 with 6:21 left to play. Just 10 plays later, Kresta scored from the 4 for his fifth touchdown and St. Paul led 42-34 with 1:48 left to play.
After going from his 38 to inside the St. Paul 40, things went downhill for Jeremiah Tucker. He was sacked by Natal for a loss of 4 yards on first and 10 from the St. Paul 30. Then St. Paul grabbed ahold of him again around the 37 where the ball came out and Natal picked it up about the 46 and went the distance for seal the game and the championship for the Cardinals.
With one last gasp, the Lions drove inside the St. Paul 30 but a second-down pass by Jeremiah Tucker fell incomplete with no time left.
St. Paul bids farewell to seniors Barton, Eudosio Garza, Ryan Malinovsky, Ryan Bell, Hull, Josh Haynes, Noah Leist and Greg "Max" Patek.
|Shiner St. Paul's Joseph Natal runs with the ball during Friday's TAPPS Division IV state final game at Waco Midway Panther Stadium.||Shiner St. Paul's Conor Kresta follows his blockers during Friday's TAPPS Division IV state title game at Waco Midway Panther Stadium.|
|Cardinal defenders pursue and tackle an Arlington Grace ball carrier during Friday's TAPPS Division IV state final game at Waco Midway Panther Stadium.||Shiner St. Paul coach Jake Wachsmuth gets a sideline ice shower after his Cardinals defeated Arlington Grace Prep for the TAPPS Division IV state football title on Friday at Waco Midway Panther Stadium.|
|Shiner Gazette - December 8, 2016 - Page 1||Shiner Gazette - December 8, 2016 - Page 7|
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GAME STATISTICSsource: Shiner Gazette TAPPS Division IV State Championship Shiner St. Paul 49, Arlington Grace Prep 34 Friday, December 2, 2016, 12:00noon Waco Midway Panther Stadium, Hewitt SCORING SUMMARY 1 2 3 4 F Arlington Grace Prep 7 20 7 0 -- 34 Shiner St. Paul 7 14 14 14 -- 49 SCORING DETAILS: First Quarter AGP Brendan Walters 1 run (Jay Sedwick kick), 10:03 1Q. SSP Conor Kresta 13 run (Frank Benes kick), 1:34 1Q. SSP Joseph Natal 36 run (Benes kick), 10:03 2Q. Second Quarter AGP Jeremiah Tucker 14 run (Sedwick kick), 8:46 2Q, SSP Kresta 1 run (Benes kick), 1:46 2Q. AGP Matthew Tucker 24 pass from Jeremiah Tucker (Sedwick kick), 0:56 2Q. AGP Walters 10 pass from Jeremiah Tucker (kick blocked), 0:08 2Q. Third Quarter SSP Kresta 52 run (Benes kick), 10:04 3Q. AGP Matthew Tucker 14 pass from Jeremiah Tucker (Sedwick kick), 7:29 3Q. SSP Kresta 5 run (Benes kick), 3:38 3Q. Fourth Quarter SSP Kresta 4 run (Benes kick), 1:48 4Q. SSP Natal 54 fumble return (Benes kick), 0:40 4Q. TEAM STATISTICS: Arlington Grace Prep Shiner St. Paul First downs 21 26 Rushes-yards 17-114 62-459 Passing yards 351 0 Passing 22-27 0-5 Penalties-yards 9-60 2-25 Fumbles-lost 3-3 0-0 Punts-average 1-50.0 1-39.0 INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS: Rushing AGP: Jeremiah Tucker 13-111, Brendan Walters 2-2, Matthew Tucker 2-1. SSP: Conor Kresta 41-322, Austin Barton 13-65, Joseph Natal 6-50, Ryan Malinovsky 3-22. Passing AGP: Jeremiah Tucker 21-26-0-331, Christian Hawkins 1-1-0-20. SSP: Barton 0-5-0-0. Receiving AGP: Matthew Tucker 7-89, Jay Sedwick 5-74, Hawkins 4-59, Walters 3-72, Jerry Davis 2-21, Remington Cochran 1-36. SSP: none
|Mark Lube is the sports editor for the Shiner Gazette. Contact him at 361-594-3346 or email@example.com|