By Craig Vonder Haar
Missourian Sports Writer
At this point of the high school season, with most teams still alive having played 12 games, injuries usually are an issue for every team.
That certainly is the case for the Sullivan Eagles, particularly on the offensive line and in the backfield.
Junior running back Justin Biermann, who has rushed for 1,762 yards and has scored 34 touchdowns this season, currently is playing with a broken left hand.
Wearing a soft cast in the Class 4 District 3 championship game Monday against St. Clair, Biermann rushed for 106 yards and a touchdown in the Eagles’ 32-17 victory.
Biermann is forced to carry the ball in his right hand, even when he runs left.
“The coaches got me a bunch of stuff to put on my hand, so I really can’t even feel it,” Biermann said. “The credit goes to our offensive line. They’ve been a huge factor in our offense. Without them, we just wouldn’t function.”
Biermann has earned the respect of his teammates.
“At this point in the season, everybody is going to be a little banged up. Every team is dealing with that,” said Sullivan quarterback Adam Tiefenbrunn. “Biermann is definitely pushing through it and giving us his all. That’s all we can ask of him.”
The Sullivan coaches will continue to call Biermann’s number.
“Justin is a gamer. He has this quiet confidence. The kid rarely talks,” said Sullivan Head Coach Pat Burke. “His hand is hurting, but he’s probably feeling pretty good right now.”
With injuries come opportunities.
Although Biermann still is playing, he’s clearly not at full strength.
Clayton Mayer and Caden Weigl have stepped up and produced big results in the Sullivan backfield. Both players scored a touchdown Monday against St. Clair.
“Clayton played a great game. He really took the load off my back,” Biermann said. “Clayton and Caden do a great job for us.”
Tiefenbrunn had similar thoughts.
“He’s a little truck. He doesn’t go down easy,” Tiefenbrunn said of Mayer. “He’s one of my favorite guys on the team. He can run the ball.”
Any football coach will say that a backfield is only as good as its offensive line.
The line of scrimmage has been a major strength for the Eagles this season on both sides of the ball.
“That group of five offensive linemen, we’ve been beaten up this year,” Burke said. “St. Clair did a lot of really nice things to us. Some things we haven’t seen before. We were able to persevere through it. We got the blocks when we needed it. We got the hard yards from our backs when we needed it. We were able to find the holes and find the end zone.”
Naturally, Sullivan’s skill players had high praise for the offensive line.
“Our offensive line, I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Tiefenbrunn said. “I’ve been playing with them since I was a sophomore. We’ve taken our lumps and bruises over the last couple seasons. It’s nice to have some success with them this year. I couldn’t ask for anything more from them.”
The senior class has led the way for the Eagles during their current 12-0 season.
Production has come from a number of different players.
“We’re beat up. It’s a mash unit. It adds character to the team,” Burke said. “We have a large senior class. We have guys who are role players. We’ve talked to some guys from day one about being a role player. They may only play at certain times, but when you get that opportunity, you make the most of it. We have seniors who have barely seen the field this year, but they understand the role that they play. We had some guys come in tonight and give us snaps that we had to have. They did a fantastic job. This group of seniors have worked so hard. I love these guys. It’s an incredible group of kids.”