SHINER - Shiner St. Paul quarterback Austin Barton wrapped up his junior season on a high note, leading the Cardinals to an undefeated season and the TAPPS Division III state championship.
Shiner St. Paul's Austin Barton runs against Hallettsville Sacred Heart earlier this season.
[ NOTE: click on photo to enlarge ]
photos by Bonnie Arbittier for The Victoria Advocate
Now a senior, Barton is looking to get the Cardinals another state championship, but the road to this year's state final has been challenging.
"We have come a long way since I started playing here at St. Paul," Barton said. "We had some ups and downs this year, but now we have a chance to end the season the right way."
St. Paul (10-3) will play Arlington Grace Prep (9-4) in the TAPPS Division IV state final at noon Friday ( December 2, 2016 ) at Waco Midway.
The Cardinals won their fifth state championship after defeating Cedar Hill Trinity Christian 43-40 last year.
Now, the Cardinals will be looking to win back-to-back state championships and their sixth championship overall.
"The fact that we have had some success last year, we can handle it better," said St. Paul head coach Jake Wachsmuth. "We're going to treat it like any other game we have had this year. We lost 10 seniors from last year's team, who started for us. We knew we had some good young talented kids returning, but we knew the season was going to be a challenge. We started to find our way mid-year and here we are now."
Last week, the Cardinals defeated Bryan Brazos Christian 41-38 in the semifinals. Arlington Grace Prep defeated Temple Christian 24-21.
"Anyone who is playing right now is good," Wachsmuth said. "They have a really good offense with great playmakers. On defense, we have great linebackers who run to the ball and tackle well. It's going to be a challenge for us, but we need to focus on the way we play first."
Barton threw for 107 yards and rushed for 91 yards, which included a 58-yard touchdown run against Bryan Brazos Christian.
"We're going to have to go out there and give it our best," Barton said. "I'm going to have to lead the team on the field. I'm going to have to throw the ball well and I trust all my receivers to run good routes and make plays."
Junior running back Conor Kresta rushed for 284 yards on 36 carries and scored five touchdowns against Brazos Christian.
"We want to end the season like any team would want to in the championship game," Kresta said. "We know that they have good players and we're ready for the challenge. We want to send our seniors out the right way."
"I think if our kids play like we're capable of for four quarters, we will win," Wachsmuth said. "We can't turn the ball over and we have to play great defense. I believe in our kids."
Marcus Gutierrez is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate.
Contact him at 361-580-6588 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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