There are always questions to be answered when a new season starts.
And, for the St. Francis Borgia Regional football Knights, perhaps the biggest question was how would the defense respond after losing major standouts to graduation.
Borgia provided an affirmative answer Friday in the home opener against Pacific, winning 38-0.
The Knights limited Pacific to 68 rushing and 62 passing yards while keeping the Indians away from the end zone.
“I give credit to Coach (Glen) Roehrig and the defensive kids,” Borgia Head Coach Dale Gildehaus said. “We have two starters coming back. Pacific is a bigger, stronger team and that quarterback is super fast. He runs the option well. We played well against them. To shut out a team like that with so many seniors, I’m super proud of the kids. They gave a tremendous effort.”
“I was worried,” he said. “We didn’t stop anybody at the jamboree. Tonight, we rose to the occasion against a Pacific football team that is going to win some ballgames. They have some talent. We were lucky enough to get some breaks.”
Pacific Head Coach Clint Anderson said his team will bounce back.
“One game doesn’t define a season,” Anderson said. “The guys defined what we did wrong. We had a bad week of practice. They know we had a bad week and we dealt with it every day. It showed. We have a lot to build on there. This team has a much different feel from last year. They’re a lot more confident. They have more talent, they’re older and more experienced. We have a lot to build on.”
Offensively, the Knights ran for 189 yards, threw for 119 and came up with a special teams touchdown as well.
Five different Borgia players scored in the game and the Knights were able to move the ball no matter the conditions. Borgia grabbed the lead on a 33-yard field goal by Jake Nowak with 5:53 left in the opening quarter. The kick came while steady rain fell.
The rain finally faded away by halftime, but the change in conditions didn’t affect the game.
Borgia twice scored at the end of quarters. Tyler Stieffermann broke away for the game’s first touchdown with nine seconds to play in the opening quarter on a 42-yard run up the middle. Nowak’s kick made it 7-0 at the end of the opening quarter.
But, Gildehaus called the touchdown at the end of the half the game’s key play.
“I thought the key to the ballgame was getting that score right before the half,” Gildehaus said. “That breaks anybody’s back right there. That was huge and it’s difficult for a team to recover from that.”
After Sam Heggemann dove over the line for a one-yard plunge with 4:23 to play in the half, Heggemann took advantage of drying conditions to find Ryan Kell in man-to-man coverage down the right sideline. Kell gained enough separation to snag the long pass and run the rest of the way for a touchdown with 5 seconds to play in the half. Nowak’s kick made it 24-0 at the intermission.
“If we could have come out and I felt if we could have scored there, it could have changed,” Anderson said. “All we needed was one or two bounces to go our way.”
After a scoreless third quarter, Borgia finished out the game on a five-yard run by Heggemann with 9:39 to play and Nick Dyson’s 74-yard punt return with 6:16 to go. Nowak’s kicks made it 38-0.
Week 2 Previews
The win seemed to affirm Borgia’s spot at the top of the Missourian Area preseason poll. Borgia finished at the top of last year’s poll as well. Borgia will need that confidence going into next Friday’s game at Union. The Wildcats (0-1) lost at home to Farmington, 23-13.
“We’ve got to go back to work and watch the film to prepare for a Union team that is good,” Gildehaus said. “They have speed everywhere. And it’s over there.”
Gildehaus knows no matter the first week’s results, Friday’s game will be a difficult one. It’s a rivalry game for both teams.
New Union Head Coach Justin Grahl played for Gildehaus at Borgia and the Borgia leader knows his former pupil will be eager to show that Union is up to the task.
“This is Coach Grahl’s first chance to play against me, his old head coach,” Gildehaus said. “Nothing would make him happier than to knock us off. We’ve got to be ready for them. We’re the underdog. We’ll try to show up. It will be an exciting game.”
Meanwhile, Pacific returns home to play the first-ever football game on the new turf field. Pacific was the last team in the area to play on grass and the school had a turf field installed last winter and spring.
Washington (1-0) provides the competition. Unlike the first week’s game, this one has extra significance. Washington and Pacific are in the same district. Borgia had been in the district, but was moved down to Class 3 for this cycle.
The Blue Jays were a 7-6 winner over Seckman at home in the season opener Friday. Both teams came up with big defensive plays after struggling offensively.
Anderson knows it will be a challenge to unlock the Washington defense.
“We just have to get back after it and work it out on the chalk board,” Anderson said. “Hopefully, we’ll have a better week of practice.”
Heggemann was 6-15 for 119 yards and one touchdown passing the ball.
“Sam is our leader,” Gildehaus said. “We’re not happy. He knows he missed some passes and reads. He stays after practice and works on that fade with Andrew Patton over and over and over. The way Pacific played us, Coach (Raphael) Perry noticed and said it was there and we could take advantage.”
Patton led the receivers with two grabs for 50 yards. Kell had one catch for 45 yards and Gavin Mueller caught two passes for 26 yards. Brandon Mitchell posted one reception, but lost two yards.
On the ground, Stieffermann had seven carries for 65 yards and one score.
Heggemann ran 12 times for 62 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Alonzo MacDonald picked up 49 yards on nine rushes.
Brady Kleekamp carried twice for seven yards and Evan Comely had a six-year run.
“Tyler Stieffermann is extremely quick,” Gildehaus said. “Alonzo MacDonald is a load. He runs hard.”
Jack King led the Borgia defense with nine tackles. Kleekamp had eight while Vinny Fortner, Kell and Sam Schmidt each had five tackles.
Mitchell, Thomas Engemann and Mueller posted four tackles apiece.
Engemann and Fortner recorded one sack each.
“Vinny Fortner was simply outstanding,” Gildehaus said. “He was everywhere. Will Poepsel showed he’s going to be a good one. Thomas Engemann is big and strong. Mitchell Gildehaus did some nice things. Blake Schroeder helped us out some. The only way you get better is to keep playing kids like that and the defense stepped up in a big way tonight. We even dropped a couple of interceptions.”
Jake Nowak was perfect kicking with five extra-point kicks and a field goal.
“Jake is just an amazing talent,” Gildehaus said. “Jake and Roel Flores are soccer players and they come out after soccer practice to give us 10 minutes and Coach (Tom) Miller works with them. They’re just great kids.”
Colton Thompson led Pacific passers, going 6-14 for 59 yards.
Parker Kuelker completed a pass for three yards on a broken punt.
Matthew Austin attempted one pass.
Austin was the top receiver in yardage with 41 yards on two catches. Kuelker had five receptions for 21 yards.
“We did some good things throughout the game,” Anderson said. “I was really happy with our defense. They didn’t make it easy on Borgia. They had a couple of good plays, good pass plays and runs. Our defense didn’t give up too many easy plays. The defense made them work for it and earn it. I think we left a lot of opportunities out there on the field to improve and get better and put points on the board. That’s what I was most disappointed with that we couldn’t move the ball efficiently consistently to put points on the board.”
Ian Scott was the top tackler for the Indians with seven total stops.
Jackson Roloff and Jeremiah Murray had six tackles apiece.
Kuelker and Samuel Williams posted four tackles.
Austin, Mason Davis, Makai Parton, Josh Rash and Austin Bush ended with three tackles apiece.
“We’ll look at the film and figure out where we went wrong,” Anderson said. “We know what we’re coming into when we play at Borgia. They’re a quality opponent. We knew we had to play a pretty clean game of football.”
The rain and cool conditions were quite a switch from the weather the teams had been practicing in, but they both adapted.
The rain stopped by the half, but it slowed down both teams for much of the first quarter.
“We practiced in this about a week ago on a Monday or Tuesday,” Gildehaus said. “It wasn’t supposed to rain, but it poured. We never left the field.”
Anderson said the weather wasn’t helpful.
“Being on the road under conditions like this is always tough,” Anderson said. “We know that as adults that kids have tough time overcoming those hurdles. They’ve got to learn to play through that adversity.”
BOR - Jake Nowak 33 FG, 5:56
BOR - Tyler Stieffermann 42 run (Nowak kick), 0:09
BOR - Sam Heggemann 1 run (Nowak kick), 4:23
BOR - Ryan Kell 45 pass from Heggemann (Nowak kick), 0:05
BOR - Heggemann 5 run (Nowak kick), 9:39
BOR - Nick Dyson 74 punt return (Nowak kick), 6:16