In a game filled with dramatic moments, Hermann closed out its regular season home football schedule with a thrilling 26-22 Four Rivers Conference win last Friday over St. Clair.
The back-and-forth contest was decided in the final seconds of the game when Hermann running back Saige Hale recovered a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown with 17 seconds remaining on the clock.
“This is the biggest win we’ve had since I’ve been coaching here over the last six years. We haven’t beaten St. Clair since 2007 under Coach (Chip) Stutzman,” said Hermann Head Coach Andy Emmons. “Hopefully we can ride the momentum from this game for the rest of the year heading into district play.”
As big of a win as it was for the Bearcats, it was equally as tough for St. Clair to come away with a loss.
“We had our opportunities, but didn’t capitalize on them,” said St. Clair Head Coach Cody McDowell. “It’s a frustrating feeling. I feel like we’re not getting any breaks. Sometimes you have to make your own breaks, and we didn’t do that.”
With Hermann holding a 19-14 lead, St. Clair’s defense turned in a big play.
Collin Avery forced a fumble, recovered it and raced 25 yards for a touchdown. Kevin Cox scored on the two-point conversion to give the Bulldogs a 22-19 lead with 3:44 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“Collin made a big play,” McDowell said. “He got to the ball about the same time their back did, stripped it, recovered it and scored.”
That set up a game-winning drive by Hermann.
Facing a fourth down and nine yards to go situation from the St. Clair 27-yard line, Hermann’s Hale ran 23 yards on a toss sweep, giving the Bearcats first and goal from the four-yard line with time running out.
“That was the biggest play of the game,” Emmons said.
“It was a breakdown defensively,” McDowell said. “It wasn’t one person’s fault.”
Emmons picked up the story from there.
“We spiked the ball on second down with about 24 seconds left on the two-yard line,” Emmons said. “I signaled in two plays. On the first play, (quarterback) Craig Winkelmann was tackled trying to stretch the ball over the goal line. The ball was fumbled into Saige Hale’s hands for the game-winning touchdown with 17 seconds left. I’m not for sure that Craig wasn’t already in the end zone before the ball was fumbled. It was hard to tell on film or from my angle during the game.”
Hermann’s good fortune was St. Clair’s bad break.
“I was under the assumption that you can’t fumble the ball into the end zone and recover it for a touchdown, but apparently that’s not the case in high school,” McDowell said. “At first, I thought our guy recovered the ball. It was hard to tell. We put ourselves in that situation.”
St. Clair (3-4, 2-3) accumulated 283 yards, 150 rushing and 133 passing.
Scott was 9-22 passing for 97 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He also carried the ball six times for 15 yards and scored one touchdown.
Damon Arnold was 2-3 for 29 yards and one interception.
Skyler Hutchison rushed for 135 yards on 28 carries. He’s rushed for 1,131 yards on the season.
Ian McQueen (37 yards), Miller (36 yards and one touchdown) and Evander Spinks (19 yards) each had three receptions.
Cox added two receptions for 41 yards and scored on a two-point conversion.
Defensively, Harley Love paced St. Clair with five solo tackles and seven assists.
Cox finished with seven solos and one assist. Jacob Villalobos added four solos and four assists. Mason Helton registered five solos and two assists. Spinks had one solo and five assists. Avery had the fumble recovery for the touchdown.
Hermann (4-3, 3-1) accumulated 326 yards, 309 rushing and 17 passing.
Winkelmann carried the ball 19 times for 137 yards and scored three touchdowns. He was 2-2 passing for 17 yards.
Hale rushed for 102 yards on 11 attempts and scored one touchdown.
Jarrod Kolbe added 44 yards on 10 carries. Conner Lane had 12 yards on four attempts. Chris Hug carried the ball three times for 11 yards. Garrett Leimkuehler had three carries for three yards.
Kody Thompson (10 yards) and Austin Wurtz (seven yards) both had one catch.
Defensively, Winkelmann led Hermann with eight solo tackles and four assists. Kolbe added eight solos and one assist. Leimkuehler finished with seven solos and four assists.
Jared Privett and Thompson both had an interception.
“It was a back-and-forth game. We didn’t play well. There were too many mistakes, which is frustrating,” McDowell said. “The same problems keep coming up. We have to figure those things out. They can’t continue to happen.”
Hermann took a 7-0 lead in the opening quarter on a 12-yard touchdown run by Winkelmann.
The Bulldogs tied the game 7-7 with 11:53 left in the second quarter on a 12-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Collin Scott to Alex Miller.
A two-yard touchdown run by Scott gave St. Clair a 14-7 advantage.
Hermann answered on a 54-yard touchdown run by Winkelmann, but the extra point missed, keeping the Bulldogs ahead, 14-13.
St. Clair took the 14-13 lead into halftime.
Winkelmann struck again in the third quarter, scoring on a one-yard touchdown run to give the Bearcats a 19-14 lead.
Hermann held the 19-14 lead after three quarters.
Avery’s fumble return for a touchdown and Cox’s two-point conversion gave the Bulldogs a 22-14 lead with 3:44 left.
Hale’s fumble recovery in the end zone for a touchdown with 17 seconds left was the game winner.
“It was a strange night. It was one of those nights where anything could happen,” Emmons said. “We did not play as well as we wanted to, but I have to give a lot of credit to our players for battling the adversity and never giving up. Both teams played extremely hard and there were a few key plays that were the difference in the game.”
Week Eight Preview
St. Clair returns to action Friday at Borgia (4-3) while Hermann visits Pacific (1-6, 0-4).
“We have to get better, and that starts this week. Borgia is a good team. They’re well-coached and disciplined. The quarterback (Justin Baylard) is a good player. He’s getting his chance and taking advantage of it. It’s a home game for them. They’ll be prepared and ready,” McDowell said. “Nothing is more important to us than this Friday. I’m not overly concerned with our district seed. There’s not anyone in our district that terrifies me. We’ll show up in week 10 and play whoever it is. If we play the way we’re capable of, we’ll be fine. We have to clean things up in order to get to where we want to be.”
Emmons hopes to see continued improvement from the Bearcats.
“Pacific has been battling some injuries. Jeffrey Hinkle plays tackle and outside linebacker for them. He’s a force on defense and we’ll have to know where he is,” Emmons said. “Chris Klenke is a very good athlete and is a threat with his arm and legs. We will have to play steady defense. As always, it comes down to blocking and tackling.”
St. Clair 0-14-0-8=22
H-Craig Winkelmann 12 run (Grant Ruediger kick)
S-Alex Miller 12 pass from Collin Scott (Skyler Hutchinson kick)
S-Scott 2 run (Hutchinson kick)
H-Winkelmann 54 run (kick failed)
H-Winkelmann 1 run (kick failed)
S-Collin Avery 25 fumble return (Kevin Cox run)
H: Saige Hale 1 run (Ruediger kick)