Running only 30 offensive plays on the night, Sullivan scored in a variety of ways and cruised to a 48-16 football victory Friday at Borgia.
The Eagles (7-2) scored on offense, defense and special teams en route to their seventh consecutive victory.
“We made some big plays on defense and special teams early in the game to give us the lead,” said Sullivan Head Coach Andy Arnette. “A big difference for us was our play up front on the offensive line. Once we got the ball, our line made some big holes and we made some big runs.”
The Knights (5-4) had a game plan of controlling the ball, taking time off the clock and keeping Sullivan’s offense off the field.
That worked for a while. The Knights had a 17-play drive that ended with a 22-yard field goal by Jacob Grellner, making the score 7-3 just 10 seconds into the second quarter.
But four turnovers in the first half, one of which was returned for a touchdown, and a kickoff return for a score, derailed Borgia’s game plan.
The Knights had five turnovers in the game.
“Sullivan is an outstanding football team. They have power up front and they have speed that we can’t match up with,” said Borgia Head Coach Dale Gildehaus. “We made some mistakes that gave them opportunities to score. You can’t do that against good teams. You can’t turn the ball over. The Borgia way is to battle and never quit. I thought we were getting away from that after they scored some touchdowns, but we re-focused. I was very proud of the effort our kids gave. We did not quit. There were good things. Now, let’s try to grow and build from what we did.”
Class 4 District 3 action begins this week with first-round games Thursday at 7 p.m.
Top-seeded Sullivan hosts seventh-seeded St. Clair (4-5). Sixth-seeded Borgia plays third-seeded Westminster (7-2) at Parkway North High School.
At Parkway North, there will be a $5 admission charge for all adults. Students are free. At Sullivan, admission is $4. Children 6 and under are free.
At both venues, Halloween makeup, costumes and masks will not be permitted.
The Knights accumulated 187 yards, 140 rushing and 47 passing.
Quarterback Justin Baylard was 5-11 passing for 47 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.
Kelan Winters carried the ball 13 times for 74 yards and scored one touchdown. He also had one catch for 11 yards.
Dominic Struckhoff rushed for 41 yards on eight attempts.
Dylan Voss had one carry, which was a 15-yard touchdown run late in the game.
Drake Raftery (21 yards) and Tyler Breckenkamp (15 yards) both had two receptions.
“Drake, Kelan and Dominick displayed an outstanding future because they ran hard. Get them stronger and we’re going to have what Sullivan has,” Gildehaus said. “Justin is going to have to get stronger. There’s the key. We have to make that commitment throughout our program. If we do, and we will, we’ll have a big smile on our face in week nine next year. Our goal is to be home next year in week 10.
Todd Kleekamp finished the game with three solos and one assist.
John Hanneken, Hunter Warmack, Struckhoff, Raftery and Baylard each had two solos tackles.
Bret Snider recovered a fumble.
The Eagles accumulated 275 yards, all of which were on the ground.
Quarterback Justin Biermann carried the ball 11 times for 107 yards and scored three touchdowns. He was 0-1 passing.
Michael McDermott rushed for 91 yards on five carries and scored one touchdown.
Joey Rigdon added 30 yards on three carries and scored on a kickoff return. Zach Holtz had two carries for 25 yards and one touchdown.
Adam Archer (13 yards) and Caden Weigl (five yards) also had two carries. Dylan Harmon, Caleb Pryor, Chris Schreit and Jacob Woodcock each had one rushing attempt.
“We’ve got several backs who work hard and try to get carries,” Arnette said. “Having a guy like Justin, it’s hard to get everyone the ball. We do the best we can.”
Sullivan’s defense had five takeaways.
Matt McGowan had a 60-yard interception return for a touchdown. Biermann also picked off a pass.
Jeremy Stumpe and Dylan Harmon both recovered a fumble.
“Defensively, we’ve gotten a lot better. We’ve improved quite a bit from the Festus game,” Arnette said. “Our linebackers have gotten a lot better. Up front, with Stumpe anchoring the line, being able to move him around, other guys are stepping up. That’s been big for us.”
Borgia fumbled on its second play from scrimmage, which set up Sullivan’s first score, a three-yard touchdown run by Biermann.
The Knights made the score 7-3 on the field goal by Grellner.
Rigdon returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown to make the score 14-3.
McGowan then scored on the interception return, giving the Eagles a 21-3 advantage with 6:36 left in the second quarter.
The Eagles struck again on a 20-yard touchdown run by McDermott.
Sullivan led Borgia at halftime, 28-3.
Two more rushing scores by Biermann made the score 41-3 midway through the third quarter.
Zach Holtz joined in on the fun with a 29-yard touchdown run.
Borgia scored its first touchdown of the game with 1:02 left in the third quarter on a 17-yard run by Winters.
Voss added a 15-yard touchdown run late.
Week 10 Previews
It will be rematches for both Borgia and Sullivan in week 10, the opening round of Class 4 District 3 action.
The Knights lost a week seven contest at Westminster, 35-20. The rematch is Thursday at Parkway North.
“Honestly, I’d rather play Westminster right now than Sullivan. Can we beat Westminster? Well, it was a 21-14 game late in the third quarter the first time we played them. We were moving the ball and then turned it over,” Gidehaus said. “It’s a winnable game. We’ve come a long way since week one. This would be a great win for our program. Our goal is to play an 11th game.”
The Wildcats lost last week to Duchesne, 17-10. Their other loss came against John Burroughs, 30-7.
Other wins have come over Wheaton Academy (Illinois), MICDS, Lutheran North, Lutheran South, Priory and DuBourg.
Gildehaus said Brett Bond, who played at quarterback against Borgia, has since been moved to receiver. Brendan Bognar has taken over the quarterback duties.
Trey Merritt has rushed for 943 yards and 12 touchdowns on the season.
“Westminster is a very good team. They played Duchesne close. Their running back has broken records. They lost their best receiver earlier in the year before we played them to an ACL,” Gildehaus said. “The key for us is up front. We have to get better there. Our skill kids are playing well. If we put it all together, this is a game I think we can win. Our kids are excited.”
The Eagles won a week four contest at St. Clair, 51-25. The rematch is Thursday at Sullivan.
“We played St. Clair twice last year and will do it again this season. They have a solid running game. It gives them the ability to hold on to the ball and run the clock. It really puts the pressure on your defense to get stops and force turnovers. Skyler Hutchison runs the ball very well. If we can keep their running attack in check, we’ll be fine,” Arnette said. “I don’t think it’s a secret to anyone that we are going to look to run the ball. We’ll look to take advantage of points in their defense where we feel we have an advantage. It should be a good game. It’s always fun to watch two conference rivals play in a playoff format. Everyone will leave it all out on the field.”
The Borgia-Westminster winner plays the Sullivan-St. Clair winner in the district semifinals Wednesday, Nov. 6.
“Our district is as good as any in the state, there’s no question,” Gildehaus said. “Ladue is outstanding. Westminster is good, but Sullivan is better. I can say that because we played them both.”
S-Justin Biermann 3 run (Jake Lochner kick), 8:43
B-Jacob Grellner 22 FG, 11:50
S-Joey Rigdon 85 kickoff return (Lochner kick), 11:38
S-Matt McGowan 60 interception return (Lochner kick), 6:36
S-Michael McDermott 20 run (Lochner kick), 5:52
S-Biermann 25 run (Lochner kick), 9:23
S-Biermann 27 run (run failed), 7:03
S-Zach Holtz 29 run (Lochner kick), 4:08
B-Kelan Winters 17 run (Grellner kick), 1:02
B-Dylan Voss 15 run (kick failed), 2:37