Two teams enter, one team leaves.
That’s the nature of playoff football, and on a frigid Friday in Washington, it was the host Borgia Knights leaving with the 35-12 victory over the St. Clair Bulldogs.
Borgia (11-0) moves on to host Rolla (6-5) Friday in the Class 4 District 4 championship game. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
“I’m very proud of what the kids achieved on a very cold evening against a physical opponent,” Borgia Head Coach Dale Gildehaus said. “We stepped up. They tried to knock us down and we didn’t let them do that.”
In Friday’s game, the Knights were able to overcome the elements, the coldest night of the year and a biting northwest win, as well as the Bulldogs to earn the win.
“I’m proud of our kids,” St. Clair Head Coach Brian Robbins said. “I’m happy for our seniors to come out and have a season where they’re 8-3. I’m not sure anybody would have picked us. I know the Pigskin Preview picked us to win four games. So, we doubled that. Good for those kids and I’m grateful for them and appreciative.”
On a night that seemingly favored a ground attack, the Knights were not afraid to go to the air and that’s how Borgia scored four of its five touchdowns.
“I thought we executed very well,” Gildehaus said. “They gave us the pass, which I thought we could do and we took advantage of that. We dropped three touchdown passes. That’s got to stop.”
Senior quarterback Jacob Unnerstall distributed the ball to Matt Piontek for two scores and single touchdowns to Jonah Chisamore and Drew Piontek.
Unnerstall found Matt Piontek from 37 yards out just 1:45 into the game and scored a second touchdown with 54 seconds to go in the quarter on a 15-yard strike to Chisamore.
The lone score of the second quarter was a 34-yard pass to Matt Piontek with 2:58 to go in the half.
Borgia led 21-0 at the intermission. While St. Clair had been shut out, the Bulldogs had several chances. Borgia was able to stop the Bulldogs on multiple fourth down plays.
“We were going to have to go for it,” Robbins said. “You can’t win games like this being gun shy. We said if it was close we were going to go for it and to be honest with you, we’ve done that most of the year. We just ran into a really good defense tonight.”
St. Clair came to life in the third quarter with a 36-yard run by quarterback Tim Hoffman with 6:48 left in the period.
But Borgia added two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Justin Heggemann ran five yards for a score with 8:58 to play in the game and Unnerstall found Drew Piontek for a 48-yard score with 7:21 left.
Jacob Nowak kicked all six extra points.
St. Clair scored a final touchdown with 1:01 to play. Josh Richards scored from a yard out after the Bulldogs drove down the field on the ground with Richards, Marcus Kirk and Hoffman running behind the surge of the offensive line. The two-point conversion run failed.
“We’ve got a handful of those kids coming back,” said Robbins about the offensive line. “We’re going to lose Nick (Gough) and Jonah (Thurman) and we’re going to lose Mason (Dodson) at the tight end spot. I’m excited about the four starters that we didn’t have tonight on our team that were out that didn’t play. We’re going to be all right. We’ll have a good football team next year if we have a good offseason.”
Robbins hopes Borgia can carry on after beating his team.
“I’d like to congratulate Coach Gildehaus, his fine staff and his football team,” Robbins said. “It was a well-earned victory tonight. Good luck to them next week. I’m sure they’ll come out and play well.”
Borgia picked up 376 total yards with 185 on the ground and 191 through the air. The Knights had 16 first downs and were 2-8 on third-down conversions. Borgia was penalized six times for 35 yards.
St. Clair ran for 205 yards and threw for 72 for a total of 277 yards.
The Bulldogs earned 12 first downs and were 4-15 on third-down conversions. St. Clair was penalized six times for 45 yards.
Each team had one turnover.
Unnerstall was 7-17 for 191 yards and four touchdowns.
“It was windy all week, so I really focused on a tighter spiral and we ran a lot of routes in practice to work on that,” Unnerstall said.
Matt Piontek caught three passes for 109 yards. Chisamore had three snags for 34 yards and Drew Piontek had one catch for 48 yards.
“They’ve been huge all year,” Unnerstall said about the Piontek brothers. “That’s just what they do. We knew the inside guy was going to have a big game tonight and that was Matt Piontek. We keyed on him and he came through.”
Matt Piontek said he was just doing his job.
“I knew whenever coach needed me or when a receiver got injured that I had to step up and play the best I could at that position,” Matt Piontek said. “Cole Meyer, who is a very good receiver for us, went out with an injury and I just filled a role.”
Drew Piontek said both are doing the job.
“We had a pretty big night,” he said. “We’re just doing all we can to help the team.”
On the ground, Heggemann ran 10 times for 102 yards and one touchdown.
Louie Eckelkamp gained 71 yards on 12 carries. Unnerstall ran five times for nine yards. Matt Piontek had one carry for three yards and Ryan Zeitzmann had no yardage on one carry.
“I think the offensive line did some things,” Gildehaus said. “We saw where we could run. Heggemann runs really hard and so does Louie. We took care of some things we needed to do in the second half and we ran up and down the field.”
Matthew Sinnott led the Borgia offense with 17 total tackles with 11 solo stops.
Heggemann made 13 total tackles with eight solos.
“Our defensive line played like an offensive line this week,” Heggemann said. “They didn’t want the linebackers to get touched. They did and they made piles.”
Adonis LaBeaume posted nine solo tackles and four assists for 13 total stops.
Dylan Hellebusch had eight total tackles with five solo tackles. Reid Posinski had seven total stops. Matt Piontek recorded six total tackles.
Justin Thacker had the lone sack for the Knights and Chris Broeder intercepted a pass.
“I know their defense had only given up 90 points for the year,” Robbins said. “That’s impressive. So, we knew going in that it was going to be tough sledding.”
Hoffman led St. Clair in rushing with 11 carries for 69 yards and one touchdown. Richards had 17 carries for 67 yards and a score and Kirk carried 18 times for 59 yards. Kamalei Bursey had two carries for three yards and Harry Ramos ran once for two yards.
“There was nothing easy tonight, nothing smooth,” Robbins said about St. Clair’s running game. “Even though there were those big runs. Some of those things were some mistakes where we came out the back door we weren’t supposed to and then what have you.”
Heggemann said Borgia knew what it had to do to tackle the big running backs, Richards and Kirk.
“We knew we couldn’t hit them up high,” Heggemann said. “We had to take them at the knees. For the most part, I don’t think we did too bad.”
Hoffman was 4-10 passing for 70 yards. Chris Scott caught three passes for 52 yards and Kirk caught one pass for 18 yards.
Dalton Thompson and Ryan Barrett each had five solo stops and seven total tackles. Scott made five solo stops. Damion McCoy had five total tackles and a fumble recovery. Thurman had four total tackles and Bursey made three solo stops.
“Their defensive coordinator, Coach (Joe) Schuchardt is from Salem and we’ve had a lot of battles with them,” Gildehaus said. “I knew they would make changes to take some things away. They came up with a five-man front and they jumped around. Every set we showed, they went to a different thing and that’s the sign of a good coordinator.”
After the game, both coaches credited the other squad.
“They’re 8-2 coming into this game for a reason,” Gildehaus said. “They’re a well-coached team. Coach Robbins, I have the utmost respect for him. He’s a good man. His kids play hard. We knew that going into the game. We knew their defensive is pretty tough.”
Robbins complimented the Knights.
“I think we did some decent things defensively,” Robbins said. “It’s a good football team, good personnel. They’ve got options over there. I think what hurt us is we just couldn’t answer on offense and eat the clock up and keep their high-potent offense off the field. That game plan has worked most of the year and we run into a good team like this and it doesn’t always work out that way. So, kudos to those guys.”
StC - 0-0-6-6=12
Bor - 14-7-0-14=35
Bor - Matt Piontek 37 pass from Jacob Unnerstall (Jacob Nowak kick), 10:15
Bor - Jonah Chisamore 15 pass from Unnerstall (Nowak kick), 0:54
Bor - Piontek 34 pass from Unnerstall (Nowak kick), 2:58
StC - Tim Hoffman 36 run (run failed), 6:48
Bor - Justin Heggemann 5 run (Nowak kick), 8:58
Bor - Drew Piontek 48 pass from Unnerstall (Nowak kick), 7:21
StC - Josh Richards 1 run (run failed), 1:01