Friday night’s showdown between the Cardinal Ritter and St. Francis Borgia Regional proved to be everything fans expected in a fight for a league title.
In the end, the visiting Lions (7-0, 4-0) dethroned the Knights (6-1, 3-1) in the Archdiocesan Athletic Association Large Division, 40-35.
“It was a great football game,” Borgia Head Coach Dale Gildehaus said. “I was hoping we could stay with them. We did more than stay with them. We had them on the ropes and we almost had them. We could have beaten them.”
Mekhi Hagens threw for five touchdowns, including four to Jameson Williams, to lead Cardinal Ritter to the title.
Gildehaus feels this will improve his team.
“When you play good people like this, you only get better,” Gildehaus said.
“Every coach hates to lose,” he said. “Sometimes, a loss can make you better. I look at this loss making us better.”
Gildehaus said his team adapted.
“We were a little shell-shocked playing with that kind of speed,” Gildehaus said. “They’re fast. In the second half, we realized we could play with them. I thought defensively, we did well against the run. We have not played a team with this much speed in a long time. We competed with them and we were right there. That shows me we showed a lot of grit.”
At least six area teams were impacted by the result.
With the loss, Borgia dropped back a bit from Camdenton (6-1) in the Class 4 District 5 standings. The Knights have 44.71 points and still are second to Camdenton (49.12), but fell closer to third-place Rolla (5-2, 43.93).
With wins over fourth-place Union, fifth-place Helias and eighth-place Pacific, Borgia does have the tiebreakers of being seeded above those schools if it can also beat Sullivan (2-5) in Week 9.
With Camdenton and Rolla playing each other this week, it’s possible Borgia could creep back closer to the top if it can take care of business at Festus Friday night.
“Now we just have to get better and correct the mistakes,” Gildehaus said.
Cardinal Ritter added to its lead over St. Clair (6-1) in the Class 3 District 2 standings as well. The Lions moved up to 52.43 points while the Bulldogs are at 47.14 points. Both are well above third-place Miller Career Academy (4-3, 35.57).
Borgia was held to 277 yards of total offense by Cardinal Ritter with 90 rushing and 187 passing yards.
The Knights also turned the ball over four times while only taking advantage of one Cardinal Ritter turnover.
Cardinal Ritter also ran for 90 yards, but passed for 379 on the night.
Sam Heggemann completed 10 of 20 pass attempts for 187 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Cole Meyer had one attempt.
Tyler Stieffermann caught three passes for 81 yards. Meyer caught four passes for 55 yards and had both touchdowns.
One-catch receivers were Adam Molitor (30 yards), Tyler Glosemeyer (18) and Louie Eckelkamp (3).
On the ground, Eckelkamp ran 20 times for 87 yards and one touchdown. He also gained a two-point conversion after a penalty moved Borgia closer to the goal line.
Matthew Sinnott had two carries for 29 yards and a score.
Meyer carried the ball four times for five yards. Heggemann has eight carries for -31 yards.
Sinnott was Borgia’s top tackler with 13 solo stops, three assists and two sacks.
Molitor ended with eight total tackles and had one sack.
Braedyn Frankenberg had eight total tackles while Adam Bell made six stops. Joe Schmidt had five tackles and Nick Dyson added four tackles and an interception.
Hagens was 20-31 passing the ball. Williams caught nine of those passes for 287 yards.
Shamel Morrow ran 23 for times and had most of the rushing yards for the Lions.
Jaden Williams intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble. Jeremiah Hayes and Kailen Smith had one fumble recovery each. Demarco Fitz had a sack while leading the Lions with nine tackles.
The game couldn’t have started any better for Borgia as Glosemeyer returned the opening kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown and Borgia led 14 seconds into the game. Roel Flores, who has moved up for an injured Jake Nowak, kicked the extra point.
It didn’t take Cardinal Ritter long to come back. With 9:03 to play in the opening quarter, Hagens hooked up with Williams for the first time on the night from 12 yards out.
The ball actually went through Williams’ hands, but he was able to secure it on his legs while being tackled by Glosemeyer in the end zone. Keavion Long’s kick tied it.
Both teams had chances to go ahead.
Williams had to leave the game briefly after being popped near the goal line on a fourth and long pass play. The ball went incomplete. Williams had another potential catch skip off his hands in the end zone.
Borgia had first and 10 from the Cardinal Ritter 21 with 5:03 to go in the half, but couldn’t move forward. Flores had a 35-yard field goal attempt go wide right.
Cardinal Ritter took advantage of a Borgia turnover at the 20 with 33 seconds to go. The Knights fumbled a snap and Cardinal Ritter recovered.
A short pass from Hagens to Williams gave the Lions the score with 17.6 seconds to play. Long’s kick made it 14-7, which is how the half ended.
“We turned the ball over right before half,” Gildehaus said. “That mistake was huge. Otherwise we go in 7-7. We made too many turnovers. You can’t turn the ball over against a good football team. If we don’t give up that score, we win the game.”
While Cardinal Ritter took the opening kickoff in the third quarter, it was Borgia which scored next. Eckelkamp scored on a 10-yard run with 11:17 to go in the quarter, but the extra-point kick was blocked. Cardinal Ritter led 14-13.
That’s when the Hagens to Williams connection picked up again. The pair combined for two scores of 80 and 21 yards to go ahead 27-13 with 4:05 left in the quarter.
Borgia still wasn’t ready to give up. Sinnott scored on a 28-yard run with 1:32 to go. Eckelkamp ran for the two-point conversion to cut it to 27-21.
With 49.5 seconds to go in the quarter, Hagens found Williams again for an 85-yard score. The Lions went for a two-point conversion, but it failed and Cardinal Ritter was up, 33-21.
Heggemann and Meyer connected for a 22-yard touchdown pass with 3:44 to go in the game and Flores made it 33-28 with the extra-point kick.
Hagens went back to work, getting a 37-yard touchdown pass from Hagens to Cameron Coleman with 2:18 to go. Long’s kick made it 40-28.
Borgia needed less than a minute to strike back and Heggemann found Meyer from eight yards out with 1:23 to play. Flores kicked the extra point to pull Borgia back to within five, 40-35.
“Twice, our two-minute offense moved right down the field,” Gildehaus said. “I don’t know if anybody has done that to them all year long. If we can do that to them, we can do that to any team in our district. I don’t believe there is a team with that speed in our district.”
However, the onside kick was covered by the Lions and Cardinal Ritter ran out the clock for the win.