At the end of the football season, only the Union Wildcats remain standing among area teams.
Union (6-4) won the Class 4 District 2 title Saturday in Ladue, defeating John Burroughs, 26-7, to win the team’s first district title since 2011.
That gives Union a Friday night home contest against Festus (10-1). Kickoff at Stierberger Stadium is set for 7 p.m.
Admission is $7 for those 6 and older. Each participant will have four vouchers. Approximately 700 seats will be available.
“This is a special opportunity for us to get better this week in practice,” Union Head Coach Justin Grahl said. “We’re one of only eight teams left. We need to have a great week and do everything possible to win that game.”
There is an additional factor as rain is possible during the game. The likelihood for showers during the game peaks near 50 percent. As Union played in the rain last Saturday, the Wildcats should be able to adapt to the weather.
It marks the first time since 2010 that Union has played in a quarterfinal game. The Wildcats lost that year on the road to Webb City, 42-7.
“It will take the same type of play as today (the district championship game),” Union senior running back-linebacker Gavin Wencker said. “When we play this type of game, this is the outcome you’re going to see.”
Sophomore quarterback Liam Hughes said the team needs to remain focused.
We’ve got to keep playing like this,” Hughes said. “We’ve got to keep our heads up and keep our minds focused to get ready to play.”
Thrilled to Be Playing
Winning a district title was the last thing on Union’s radar after a 53-13 loss to Owensville Oct. 9.
The defeat dropped Union to 3-4 on the season and took Union out of contention for the Four Rivers Conference title.
In the week after that, things got much tougher.
Union had to cancel its Week 8 and 9 games against St. James and Hermann, respectively, due to COVID-19.
“Everybody healed and got healthy,” Wencker said. “Everybody got into the right mental state of mind to come out and play in the district as hard as we could.”
Hughes said it was a chance to recharge.
“I think we got the time to rest and we got our minds right,” Hughes said. We came back stronger than ever.”
While Union retained the second seed in the district standings, the team had to shake off the rust for the playoffs.
Union showed no signs of time missed in a 42-0 win over Clayton to start the district tournament.
The next game nearly was an upset. Hosting Sullivan, Union fell behind in the fourth quarter, 20-7. Scoring twice in the fourth quarter, the Wildcats came back to win, 21-20, and advance to the district title game against John Burroughs.
Coming to town Friday is a Festus program which has only been beaten once this season, and that loss was a close one.
The Tigers fell in Week 8 at Farmington, 10-7, and that’s been the only bump in the road for the team so far.
Union and Festus have two common opponents, Sullivan and Pacific.
Union beat Sullivan in Week 3, 14-0, and in the district semifinals, 21-20.
Festus won in Week 2, 42-13.
Union beat Pacific, 41-40, while Festus stopped the Indians, 40-24.
Other wins for the Tigers were against Ste. Genevieve, Windsor, De Soto, Hillsboro, North County and St. Charles West.
In the playoffs, Festus got a first-round bye before beating De Soto, 25-7, and North County, 27-6, to win the Class 4 District 1 title.
As expected for a quarterfinalist, Festus is well balanced. The Tigers have been effective in throwing and running the ball this season.
Austin Anderson is the top rusher with 673 yards and six touchdowns on 54 carries.
Quarterback Cole Rickermann has 56 rushes for 325 yards and four scores.
Cayden Glaze has carried the ball 44 times for 212 yards and six touchdowns.
Kaian Roberts-Day has 37 carries for 211 yards and two touchdowns.
Dalten Yates has run 32 times for 175 yards and three touchdowns.
Landon Bradshaw has carried the ball 38 times for 124 yards and two touchdowns.
Cole Wagner has 29 carries for 118 yards and three scores.
Seven other players also have registered carries this season.
Rickermann has completed 103 of 186 pass attempts for 2,179 yards, 29 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Collin Doyel is the top receiver with 21 catches for 452 yards and six touchdowns.
Daylen Wagoner has 14 catches for 391 yards and five scores.
Roberts-Day has caught 13 passes for 368 yards and seven touchdowns.
Isaac Stucke has 20 receptions for 322 yards and five touchdowns.
Also over 100 receiving yards are Cayse Martin (six catches for 170 yards and two touchdowns), Luke Valleck (10 receptions for 115 yards) and Anderson (five catches for 108 yards and three touchdowns).
Eli Ortmann is the team’s top tackler with 76 total stops. He also has two sacks and a fumble recovery.
Desmond Davis had 67 tackles, three sacks and two fumble recoveries.
Luke Greenstreet also has three sacks.
Martin and Doyel both have two interceptions.