St. Clair’s main offensive cogs of Josh Richards and Marcus Kirk continued to click last Friday night at Hermann and the Bulldogs’ tandem running backs powered their team to a 52-6 Four Rivers Conference football win.
The Bulldogs have now won four in a row after suffering their only loss in Week 3 at Pacific. With a nonconference home game this Friday against St. Charles Duchesne, St. Clair is headed for a FRC showdown at Owensville in the final regular season game, and they currently each have one league loss.
St. Clair didn’t show any signs of complacency after a big conference win over St. James the previous week. The Bulldogs had first possession after Hermann won the toss and deferred to have the ball to start the second. St. Clair scored with 10:23 left in the opening quarter on a four-yard run by Richards. That finished a six-play, 80-yard drive. Kirk set up that touchdown with a 45-yard run. Richards’ two-point conversion run made it 8-0.
The Bearcats, who were celebrating homecoming, came right back and scored on their first possession when sophomore quarterback Chase McKague tossed an eight-yard pass to sophomore Trent Gleeson, but Hermann failed to convert on a run for the two-point conversion.
When it seemed like this would be a dogfight, it turned out to be all St. Clair. The Bulldogs scored once more in the first quarter when quarterback Tim Hoffman fired a 39-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Chris Scott. Another two-point conversion run by Richards made it 16-6 with 2:03 left in the quarter.
But it was Richards, a big bruising back, and the fleet-footed Kirk who kept the Bulldogs in control.
“We have some good running backs; one is pretty fast and the other one is powerful,” said St. Clair Head Coach Brian Robbins. “They were both starters last year and we’re pretty blessed with those two kids.”
Hermann coach Andy Emmons said the Bulldogs were too powerful and speedy for the Bearcats, a young team this year with a large group of underclassmen.
“They have a quarterback who runs their offense real well, and they have those two backs who are probably the best running backs duo we’ve seen all year.”
Kirk scored three touchdowns and Richards two as St. Clair improved to 6-1 overall and 4-1 in the conference.
The Bearcats, who came into the game on a two-game losing streak after winning three of their first four games, didn’t pretend to be a pushover and Robbins didn’t expect it would be that easy.
“We take this season day-by-day and week-by-week, so we were not looking past Hermann,” he said. “That’s a good football team, and they always play you tough at home.”
After St. Clair took a 16-6 lead, Hermann called for a fake punt on fourth down and the play misfired. Six times the Bearcats elected to go for the yardage on fourth down instead of punting, and four times they turned the ball over on downs. But Emmons had prepared his team for it.
“We told our kids from the beginning that if it was manageable on fourth down, we were going for it,” Emmons said.
St. Clair, which had good field position all night, scored on three big plays in the second quarter and took a 40-6 lead into the halftime break.
Hoffman ran 30 yards for a score, Richards bolted 52 yards for his touchdown and Kirk caught a 49-yard scoring pass from Hoffman.
Was Robbins concerned that his team might let their foot off the gas in the second half after opening up a big lead?
“We told them at halftime they better keep playing hard because we knew Hermann wouldn’t quit,” he said.
Kirk had scoring runs of 47 and 52 yards in the third quarter and the Bulldogs put up more than 50 points for the third time this season.
“When he got into the open field, we couldn’t catch him,” said Emmons of Kirk. “St. Clair does a lot of things well. They are probably, overall, the best team we’ve seen all year.”
The Bearcats, 3-4 overall and 0-4 in the league, had over 240 yards rushing, and their young quarterback (McKague) had more option carries than he had in any previous game this season.
“That was probably our best overall offensive game this season, especially against a team that strong,” Emmons said. “I felt our offensive line played its best game all year. I thought we moved the ball pretty well; we just didn’t get it in the end zone.”
Robbins said his team will work on getting better, and praised his upperclassmen for their leadership.
“We came over here two years ago with a bunch of sophomores, and now those kids have worked and gotten stronger,” he said. “This is my fourth year with the program and I think these kids understand what we’re doing.
“They (Hermann) came out and scored early, so we knew they were ready to play. I know Hermann’s had some ups and downs, but we also knew they were capable of playing well.”
With two weeks left in the regular season, there are four teams in the Four Rivers Conference with one league loss — St. Clair, Owensville, Pacific and St. James.