In a football matchup that featured plenty of talent at the skill positions on both teams, it was the play at the line of scrimmage that ultimately decided the outcome.
Playing in the semifinals of Class 4 District 3, third-seeded Westminster (9-2) established itself up front in a 37-21 victory at second-seeded Sullivan (8-3).
“They’re big, fast and strong up front and they controlled the line of scrimmage. That was the difference in the ball game. They did what we tried to do, and they did it well,” said Sullivan Head Coach Andy Arnette. “I knew they were good, but film doesn’t do their offensive and defensive lines justice. They are a lot bigger, stronger, faster and a lot more physical than what the film shows.”
Westminster rode the success of its line, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.
“Our hope was that we’d be able to control the line of scrimmage,” said Westminster Head Coach Cory Snyder. “We tested it early in the game to see if we could. Once we found out we could, we continued to push it.”
It was a rematch of a district semifinal game from last year at Sullivan, won by the Eagles, 42-14.
“Last year’s trip here was a learning experience for us, especially on the defensive side of the ball playing against the double wing,” Snyder said.
Westminster plays top-seeded Ladue (10-1) in the district championship game Monday at 7 p.m. Ladue won Wednesday over fifth-seeded Priory, 42-7.
“Ladue is a good team,” Snyder said. “They’re fast and they’re senior heavy, so it’s going to be a challenge for us.”
The key for Westminster was its ability to control the clock with its running game.
The Wildcats constantly called on junior running back Trey Merritt, and he delivered. He carried the ball 45 times for just over 300 yards.
“He ran downhill. When they control the line of scrimmage like they did, he’s going to get at least three or four yards every time,” Arnette said. “There’s no reason to do anything different.”
Merritt was a workhorse for the Wildcats.
“We’ve never really given our running backs that many carries in a game, but there was no reason not to,” Snyder said. “He had good ball security, ran hard and got extra yards. We’re glad he’s going to be around for another year, that’s for sure.”
Westminster used two quarterbacks in the game.
Brett Bond played in the wildcat formation, where he ran the ball up the middle. When he moved to running back or receiver, Brendan Bognar took over. Bognar took most of the snaps.
It was a back-and-forth contest until Westminster took over in the second half.
The Wildcats led 10-0 after one quarter on a 28-yard field goal by David Williams and a one-yard touchdown run by Bond.
The Eagles scored all of their points in the second quarter, outscoring Westminster, 21-10.
Quarterback Justin Biermann had touchdown runs of 23 yards and one yard and also tossed a 13-yard touchdown pass to Matt McGowan.
Westminster scored on a 33-yard field goal by Williams and a 26-yard run by Merritt.
Sullivan led at halftime, 21-20.
The second half belonged to the Wildcats, outscoring Sullivan, 17-0.
“It looked like they put it into cruise control in the second quarter and that’s when we jumped on them,” Arnette said. “They came out after halftime and really controlled the line of scrimmage both ways, offensively and defensively.”
Williams booted his third field goal of the game, this one from 21 yards, and Bond scored on a one-yard run and a six-yard pass from Bognar.
“We didn’t make any changes at halftime. Defensively, we were weak on the edges and tried to shore that up a little,” Snyder said. “Getting ahead helped and forced them into some things they didn’t want to do. We held the ball for a really long time in the second half.”
Biermann carried the ball 17 times for 135 yards and scored two touchdowns.
In his first season as head coach, Arnette was pleased with the improvements his team made after dropping the first two games of the season.
“We had a great season, going undefeated in the conference,” Arnette said. “After losing those first two games, we came back, improved and did things the right way. I’m extremely proud of our guys.”
Now the task begins of finding a replacement for Biermann and the other seniors.
“You can’t replace Justin. That’s a given. We’ve got a good core group of younger kids coming back. Hopefully they’ll step up and take leadership of this team and lead us to some wins next year,” Arnette said. “We’ll give these guys a little time off then get them back and get them in the weight room. We’ll start working with the juniors, turning those guys into our senior leader group for next year.”
W-David Williams 28 FG, 8:23
W-Brett Bond 1 run (Williams kick), 3:04
S-Justin Biermann 23 run (Jake Lochner kick), 11:53
S-Matt McGowan 13 pass from Biermann (Lochner kick), 10:08
W-Williams 33 FG, 8:33
S-Biermann 1 run (Lochner kick), 4:10
W-Trey Merritt 26 run (Williams kick), :48
W-Williams 21 FG, 6:18
W-Bond 1 run (Williams kick), 11:01
W-Bond 6 pass from Brendan Bognar (Williams kick), 1:35