JARRELL -- After allowing an opening 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, the Shiner St. Paul Cardinals put the clamps on Dallas Covenant, scoring 42 unanswered points in a 63-28 victory over the Knights in the TAPPS Div. IV regional finals.
Despite the quick turnaround on defense, St. Paul head coach Jake Wachsmuth noted that the team didn’t change the game plan after allowing that first score. Rather, the team used it as a wake-up call to execute better on both sides of the ball.
“We didn’t make any adjustments, we did some things, not just on that first drive, but kind of throughout,” he said. “Credit to them, their quarterback makes plays but we also probably did some things that we need to get fixed. But [Dallas Covenant] came out, they played last week, that’s not an excuse, but you can tell they probably were a little bit more ready from the get go. That maybe got our attention.”
Immediately following Dallas Covenant’s drive, the Cardinals had a matching 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, highlighted by big runs by Zak Johnson, Noah Boedeker and Kai Giese. Johnson ended the drive with a one-yard dive into the end zone. St. Paul was able to overcome a holding penalty near midfield.
“I thought we did some things up the middle, we did some things outside, but we weren’t consistent,” Wachsmuth said. “We get penalties that kill drives, there’s just some things that we got to get fixed. But we got some kids that can make some plays and hopefully we can learn from some of the things we didn’t do as well.”
After forcing a punt on Dallas Covenant’s next drive, the Cardinals took advantage of short fields throughout the first half, starting on the Knights’ 40-yard line, 27-yard line, 41-yard line and finally their own 44-yard line. On those four drives, the Cardinals scored three touchdowns, a three-yard rush by Carson Reese, a two-yard play-action pass from Giese to Atley Pilat and seven-yard rush by Reese.
In the second half, the Knights used trick plays to catch St. Paul’s defense off guard, scoring off a 35-yard rush to cut the lead to 42-13. But on the ensuing kickoff, Giese returned the kick for a 94-yard touchdown to give the Cardinals a 49-13 lead.
Giese ended the night with a passing touchdown, a special teams touchdown and a 54-yard rushing touchdown. Reese added three rushing touchdowns, Johnson had two rushing touchdowns, Pilat had one receiving touchdown and Gerard Nunez came away with an interception return for a touchdown. On all phases, the Cardinals had nine total touchdowns.
After Nunez’s touchdown, the officials opted for a running clock with St. Pauls 63-21 lead in the fourth quarter with 7:33 left.
One point of emphasis for the team will be the amount of times they were penalized throughout the game, whether they were personal fouls, holding or even an offsides on a key fourth-down play, the Cardinals will need to clean that up being this deep in the playoffs.
“It’s huge,” Wachsmuth admitted. “We didn’t turn the ball over, I don’t think. They did turn the ball over once, but we can’t … I mean, we probably go in the half up 35-7 but we false start and we just can’t do those things. I know that people do them, but [those penalties] kill you.”
Nonetheless, the Cardinals are off to the TAPPS Div. IV state semifinals against Fort Worth Lake Country Christian. The teams matched up in the state championship last season, with St. Paul winning 29-21.
As of publication, details to the game have yet to be announced.