It all comes down to this.
Borgia hosts Rolla Friday at 7 p.m. for the Class 4 District 4 football championship. The winner advances to the quarterfinal round and the loser has to be satisfied with second in the district.
“We talked about our goals,” Borgia Head Coach Dale Gildehaus said. “We wanted to win our conference. We wanted to be seeded first in the district and we want to win the district. The last goal is within reach now and we’re at home.”
Gildehaus said both squads have shown what it takes to be able to play for the title.
“We’re in the final 16 in the state,” Gildehaus said after the Knights beat St. Clair. “There’s good teams that put equipment away this evening. What will we do next week? We’re not ready to put equipment away just yet.”
While Borgia was beating St. Clair, 35-12, Rolla (6-5), the third seed, won on the road at Parkway West, 26-21.
“They were the better team that night and made plays when they needed to,” Parkway West Head Coach Jeff Duncan said. “We did not. I was proud of our kids and the way that they fought back but it was too little, too late.”
Duncan said the Bulldogs took a 19-0 lead in the first half, scoring after three turnovers. It turned out to be too much of a hole for the Longhorns to dig themselves out of, but they did make it close a couple of times in the second half, 19-14 and 26-21.
The game renews a rivalry from the mid-1990s, when Borgia and Rolla faced off in the regular season.
“I’ll never forget the battles we’ve had with them down there,” Gildehaus said. “We’ve had some tremendous battles in the past. They’re good. They play in a conference with all Class 6 schools. We’ll get film and go from there. It will come down to execution.”
The current crop of Borgia players hasn’t seen Rolla.
“I don’t know too much about them,” senior running back and linebacker Justin Heggemann said. “Since they beat Parkway West, I’m sure they’re about as physical as these guys. We’ve got to be ready.”
Quarterback Jacob Unnerstall said Borgia needs to take care of its side of things.
“It’s going to take our best,” Unnerstall said. “We know Rolla is pretty good. We’ll welcome them and show them what Borgia football is all about.”
Matt Piontek, who caught two touchdown passes against St. Clair, said Borgia needs to prepare the best it can.
“It’s going to be a big game with the district championship here,” he said. It’s going to be pretty tough. We’ll prepare the best we can and be ready.”
Matt’s brother, Drew Piontek, agreed.
“It’s going to be a big week,” Piontek said. “We’re going to have to keep working hard in practice and see what we can do.”
The Bulldogs, who moved down from Class 5 for this cycle, were the district runner-up last year as well.
The Bulldogs have knocked off Parkway West and Westminster Christian Academy (42-17 in Rolla) during the playoffs. In the regular season, the Bulldogs defeated Kickapoo, Parkview, Waynesville and Glendale.
Losses were against Lebanon, Joplin, Camdenton, Hillcrest and West Plains.
Expect a lot of scoring if Rolla has its way. Westminster Christian was the only team to not reach 20 or more points this season in a Rolla game. The Bulldogs have been held below 30 points three times this year and the Parkway West game was the first time they won in one of those low-scoring contests.
The focus of the Rolla attack is quarterback Josh Pritchett. The 6-3, 165-pound quarterback is the player to stop, according to Duncan.
“All you need to know is Pritchett,” Duncan said. “Stop him, contain him and you win the game. It’s easier said than done as we threw everything at him and could not stop him. He can run and he can throw. They want to spread you out to create running lanes for him to rush the ball. You cannot over pursue him and quite honestly if I had to do it all over again, I would not let any of our defenders rush more than several yards past the line of scrimmage until more help got there. He’s just elusive and we had a hard time tackling him.”
Against Parkway West, Pritchett ran for a pair of one-yard touchdowns and threw for a pair of scores (35 and 52 yards) during the game.
Pritchett ran for 100 yards and threw for 170 yards. Much of the passing yardage went to Blaize Klossner, who had seven receptions for 92 yards and one score.
“Their slot receiver (Klossner) is a nice playmaker,” said Duncan.
Brett Gonzalez had two receptions for 69 yards and one score.
Gildehaus knows his team will have to play some of its best defense of the season.
“Defense wins championships and defense will have to win that championship next week,” Gildehaus said.
Josh Morris and Colton Morris each recorded 17 tackles to pace the Rolla defense. Klossner recorded 14 tackles with one interception.
“Defensively they run a 4-3,” Duncan said. “They did a nice job of containing our sweep play and counter play. Those things are what we have done well all year and they contained that. We ran outside veer 20-plus times with a lot of success and I know that Borgia is good at that as well. We stopped ourselves. They did not stop us as we rushed for around 190 yards and threw for about 110. We had five turnovers in the game. I believe that we punted the ball one time.”
Duncan feels Borgia has a good chance to win.
“Borgia has big-play capability,” Duncan said. “That is something that we do not have this year (last year we had it). I think that this will help Borgia in their offensive game plan as teams have put up some point on Rolla with big plays in both the run and pass game.”
Gildehaus said having a big crowd is necessary for his team.
“It’s a cold night,” Gildehaus said about the St. Clair game. “A lot of kids weren’t here with us tonight. We need them back next week. We need that 12th man in the stands because Rolla is going to bring them.”
As of Tuesday morning, the weather also could be a factor. As of Tuesday morning, the forecast was for a 30-percent chance for showers Friday afternoon and evening.