COLUMBUS — Shiner St. Paul keeps winning when it counts.
The Cardinals were outplayed for seven straight quarters, but when it counted the most, they were able to upset their rivals, the Hallettsville Sacred Heart Indians, by scoring 21 straight in the fourth to advance to the TAPPS Division IV state finals.
“A few weeks ago, I don’t think we win,” St. Paul head coach Jake Wachsmuth said after the game, “but these kids have, if you watch them over the last few weeks, they got a little bit of a different fight about them. The only way you can do that is you got to not have any quit and even then, it doesn’t always go your way but these kids…it’s tremendous.”
In their previous matchup, the Indians won 28-7. The Cardinals didn’t get into the end zone last Saturday until the fourth quarter, a one-yard rush by Joseph Natal on a drive that had two fourth-down conversions. On the very next possession, the Cardinals forced a fumble, hopped on it, then two minutes later tied the game on a play action pass from Kai Giese to Dalton Jahn for 22 yards.
“The momentum swung a little bit and our kids started to feel a little bit more,” Wachsmuth explained. “We had a few [players] make plays and once a couple made plays, they all made plays. I’ve been on the other side of that before too, it doesn’t feel really good. Sometimes it feels once the momentum thing happens it’s hard to get it back.”
Sure enough, after that possession, the Cardinals, who initially had trouble getting to Sacred Heart quarterback Sam Brown, finally got their hands of the shifty signal caller. On a day where Brown rushed 13 times for 149 yards, the Cardinals defense sacked him four times, three times by Luke Darilek and once by Cole Brown.
“[Sam Brown is] a heck of a [player],” Wachsmuth said. “I told them, their quarterback makes things go, he’s a heck of a player. He made some plays, he was hard to tackle.”
St. Paul’s go-ahead score came with a possession that began with 2:02 left on the clock. Natal broke off a 67-yard run to get to Sacred Heart’s 15-yard line. A few plays later, the senior back punched it in from two yards out, giving the Cardinals the 24-17 lead with 18 seconds left.
On Sacred Heart’s ensuing drive, Brown scrambled for a nine-yard rush on the first play, then was sacked by Darilek to end the game.
When asked what changed, Wachsmuth gave credit to the athletes’ “never quit” attitude.
“I don’t know because for three quarters it didn’t look like there was much any change and it seemed like once we got a little bit of momentum going, heck, that last drive, we started at the , 90-something yards, now we had a big run but it’s just crazy,” he replied. “I don’t know. All I know is the kids never quit, they never, when we were 0-7, 1-8, they never ever stopped. That’s a credit to them.”
Natal ended his day with 33 rushes for 208 yards and two touchdowns. Noeh Boedeker added 10 rushes for 43 yards. Kai Giese went 9-of-15 passing for 89 yards and a touchdown. Dalton Jahn had five catches for 62 yards and a touchdown.
St. Paul plays Fort Worth Lake Country Christian on Saturday at Hewitt Midway High School – Panther Stadium, with kickoff scheduled at noon.