By Craig Vonder Haar
Missourian Sports Writer
The sequel lived up to the hype.
St. Clair and Sullivan, two longtime Four Rivers Conference rivals, slugged it out Monday night for the right to advance in the MSHSAA football playoffs.
For the second time this season, the top-seeded Eagles prevailed over the second-seeded Bulldogs, claiming the Class 4 District 3 championship, 32-17.
“It’s St. Clair against Sullivan, so that’s automatically a big rivalry. At the same time, it’s for the district championship, so it’s at a whole other level,” said Sullivan quarterback Adam Tiefenbrunn. “We knew it was going to be a hard-hitting game. Both teams played amazing. We just came out on top.”
Like the first game on Sept. 14, St. Clair had its chances, but mistakes hurt. The Bulldogs committed six turnovers in the district title contest.
“We turned the ball over. We made some mistakes as far as penalties. We missed tackles,” said St. Clair Head Coach Cody McDowell. “You can’t make mistakes like that in a game of this magnitude. They’re a good enough team to make you pay when things like that happen.”
Sullivan (12-0) visits Webb City (12-0) in the Class 4 quarterfinals Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
“We talked all week about playing within our emotions. I think we did a really good job of that,” said Sullivan Head Coach Pat Burke. “We came out and executed the game plan like we worked all week. We did what we needed to do. I’m really proud of these guys.”
Sullivan accumulated 379 total yards, 257 rushing and 122 passing.
Tiefenbrunn was 9-14 passing for 122 yards. He also rushed for a touchdown.
Playing with a broken left hand, Justin Biermann carried the ball 15 times for 106 yards and one touchdown.
“It was a great game,” Biermann said. “Our line blocked really well. They played physical. St. Clair was real physical.”
Caden Weigl rushed for 85 yards on nine attempts and scored one touchdown.
Clayton Mayer had 15 rushes for 72 yards and one touchdown. He also scored on a two-point conversion.
“He’s our little engine,” Burke said of Mayer. “The kid is a driver. He’s an emotional leader on this team. When we need the hard yards, he’s the one who steps it up and calls for the ball.”
Adam Weiland finished with four receptions for 85 yards. He also had a touchdown pass on a broken two-point conversion play.
St. Clair (10-2) accumulated 277 total yards, 159 rushing and 118 passing.
Quarterback Kyle Juergens was 9-19 passing for 118 yards. He also carried the ball 16 times for 84 yards and one touchdown.
Rickey Grivetti rushed for 49 yards on 10 attempts before leaving the game early in the third quarter. Early indications were that Grivetti suffered a dislocated elbow.
Grivetti also had a kickoff return for a touchdown, which tied the game 10-10 late in the second quarter.
“I hated losing Rickey. That hurt,” McDowell said. “We had to have other people step up.”
Adam Brott had four receptions for 60 yards and had two rushes for 26 yards.
Sullivan never trailed in the district championship game.
St. Clair lost the ball on a fumble on its second possession, which gave the Eagles the ball at their own 44-yard line.
Sullivan took advantage, scoring on a 38-yard touchdown run by Biermann with 3:49 left in the opening quarter.
The Bulldogs made the score 7-3 on a 27-yard field goal by Jacob Meisel early in the second quarter.
It was then Sullivan’s turn for a field goal as Jake Lochner connected from 24 yards away to increase the lead to 10-3 with 3:32 remaining in the second quarter.
Grivetti then returned the ensuring kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown to tie the game 10-10 with 3:17 left in the second quarter.
The Eagles came right back, scoring on a three-yard touchdown run by Weigl. On the extra point attempt, the snap was dropped, but Weiland scrambled and found Mayer in the end zone for two points to make the score 18-10 with 2:00 left in the second quarter.
Sullivan led 18-10 at halftime.
Mayer scored on an eight-yard touchdown run to give Sullivan a 25-10 lead with 3:24 left in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs answered when Juergens raced 47 yards for a score to trim the Sullivan lead to 25-17 with 1:55 left in the third quarter.
With the score still 25-17, Juergens had another long touchdown run that was called back due to offsetting penalties.
Later on the same possession, the Bulldogs lost the ball on a fumble.
Sullivan sealed the win on a one-yard touchdown run by Tiefenbrunn to make the score 32-17 with 6:13 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“It was a good run, but it’s second place in districts. That’s not really what we worked for,” McDowell said. “We’re losing a great group of seniors. We had a pretty good run. We just came up a little short. These kids worked hard. When you get to this point of the year, you have to play well. And we didn’t play well.”
Webb City Preview
Webb City, the two-time defending Class 4 champions, blew out Hillcrest Monday to claim the District 4 crown, 55-10.
The Cardinals, coached by John Roderique, have won 90 straight regular season games and 42 consecutive games overall.
“We have 30 seniors our roster, which is probably the most we’ve had since I’ve been here,” said Roderique. “Just like every other team, we’ve had to deal with injuries. We lost our best defensive lineman two weeks ago to an ACL. We lost two starters on the offensive line early (Monday) night. They didn’t even play. We’ve just had guys step in and fill those spots, which has been a real key for us. Our depth is very good this year.”
Against Hillcrest, Webb City rushed for 401 yards and eight touchdowns.
Running back Phoenix Johnson carried the ball 13 times for 163 yards and scored three touchdowns.
On the season, Johnson has rushed for 1,245 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Cooper Smith also rushed for three touchdowns against Hillcest and has 13 scores on the season.
Quarterback John Roderique, son of the head coach, has thrown for over 1,300 yards and 15 touchdowns on the season. He rushed for 121 yards on eight attempts against Hillcrest.
His favorite receiving targets are Kohl Slaughter and Jalen Vaden.
“On the second play of the game (Monday) night, John ran 72 yards for a touchdown against a fast Hillcrest defense,” Roderique said. “He’s always been able to throw the ball, but I’ve been surprised how well he’s run it. I’m really proud of how he’s improved as a quarterback.”
Webb City’s defense held Hillcrest to 169 total yards, 98 passing and 71 rushing.
Leading tacklers on the season are Dalton Humphrey, Logan Williams, Jose Speer and Todd Fowler.
‘“They have speed across the board. They’re a split-back veer team. They’ll run right at you,” Burke said of Webb City. “We have to be able to slow them down. We have to slow their running game down. They can throw the ball. They do a lot of things really well. They’re really big up front on both sides of the ball.”
St. Clair 0-10-7-0=17
SU-Justin Biermann 38 run (Jake Lochner kick), 3:49
SC-Jacob Meisel 27 FG, 8:39
SU-Lochner 24 FG, 3:32
SC-Rickey Grivetti 82 kickoff return (Meisel kick), 3:17
SU-Caden Weigl 3 run (Clayton Mayer pass from Adam Weiland), 2:00
SU-Mayer 8 run (Lochner kick), 3:24
SC-Kyle Juergens 47 run (Meisel kick), 1:55
SU-Adam Tiefenbrunn 1 run (Lochner kick), 6:13