Playing in adverse weather is not something that can be taught.
Or is it?
Knowing the weather forecast for last Friday called for cold temperatures and wind, the Borgia football Knights prepared in an unorthodox way to be ready for the conditions.
“It was 76 Thursday and I knew it was going to be cold tonight, so I brought a bucket of ice out and I told them to put their hands in there,” Borgia Head Coach Dale Gildehaus said. “I made every quarterback and receiver and center put their hands in there and get used to it because we knew it was going to be cold. There’s no excuse. We knew it would be cold for both teams.”
Being ready for the weather helped the Knights gain a small edge in their 35-12 Class 4 District 4 semifinal game against the St. Clair Bulldogs.
“We’re not really used to the cold, but we had a good week of practice and it was pretty cold, so we got used to it,” Borgia quarterback Jacob Unnerstall said.
Unnerstall said the ice bucket helped the team.
“For the cold, during the week we had a bucket of ice at practice and we dipped our hands in it before every play,” Unnerstall said. “I think that really helped us.”
Unnerstall said he also worked to prepare for the wind.
“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.
Gildehaus said the team also came out Friday morning in the cold and threw the ball around on the field.
“We came up at 10:30 this morning and I made Jacob throw,” Gildehaus said. “He’s got a chance to go to Drake. If that’s going to happen, he’s got to get used to cold, windy days. He proved to me that he’s capable of going to the next level. I couldn’t be happier for him.”
Borgia receiver-defensive back Drew Piontek said the morning session really helped.
“We came out this morning, threw a little bit and got used to the weather,” he said. “That helped quite a bit.”
Additionally, Borgia also brought out its old stadium jackets from the “Greatest Show on Turf” St. Louis Rams days. That helped to take some of the bite out of the wind, which blew from behind Borgia’s sideline over to St. Clair. The Bulldogs caught the full brunt of the wind from their front. Some players had blankets, but that was the extent of weather gear for the players.
It was a small comfort edge for Borgia, but at this time of the season, any edge can make a difference.
Action on the field was a different thing.
“They came at us far harder than any other team and we knew it,” Borgia running back-linebacker Justin Heggemann said. “They just kept going all night long.”
Heggemann is one of Borgia’s two-way players and he knew the Knights had a major challenge in stopping St. Clair’s big running backs, Josh Richards and Marcus 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.”
Heggemann had Borgia’s lone running touchdown on the night.
“We started motioning people around and making the linebackers shift and that helped with one extra step and holes opened up,” he said.
Unnerstall threw for four touchdowns.
“Jacob threw the ball as well as he’s ever thrown it, in my mind,” Gildehaus said. “He put the ball on the money. We’ve got to do a better job of protecting him and catching the ball.”
Three of the touchdowns went to the Piontek brothers, Drew and Matt.
“They’ve been huge all year,” Unnerstall said. “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.”
Drew Piontek said Unnerstall has made the passing game work.
“He’s an amazing quarterback,” Drew said. “We’re getting open and making plays. It’s working out.”
Drew and Matt came back to play football this year.
“It was my senior year,” Matt said. “I knew I would be regretting it if I didn’t come back. I knew we had something special this year. We definitely are still improving and I think we can go a long way yet.”
Drew Piontek felt the brothers had a good game.
“We had a pretty big night,” Drew said. “We’re just doing all we can to help the team.”
Drew Piontek was happy his brother was able to step up in a big game.
“He can make plays when he gets a chance and he showed it tonight,” Drew said. “Hopefully, he can keep it up.”
Matt Piontek was happy that Drew was able to score a touchdown as well.
“I was very excited,” Matt Piontek said. “That just topped it off to see him get a touchdown.”
The most special moment for the two came on senior night, when Matt took a handoff from Unnerstall on a jet sweep and fired a touchdown pass to his brother during Borgia’s win over Festus.
“That one on senior night was pretty special to me,” Matt Piontek said. “Going brother to brother, I liked that one better than this one.”
The Pionteks, and the rest of the Borgia team, hopes the highlights keep coming, starting with Friday’s district championship game against Rolla.