|10/8/2021 2:57:00 PM|
CL fails to capitalize on St. Francis miscues, falls 19-7
When the Wildcats played at St. Francis last Friday night, it looked like they would go into halftime tied 7-7. But the Fighting Saints scored on a three-play drive just before halftime to go up 13-7. The Wildcats kept it close for most of the second half, but eventually lost the game 19-7 to drop to 1-4 on the season.
The Wildcats were forced to punt from their on 30 on their opening drive. The Saints returned the ball 35 yards to the Wildcat 20. Six plays later, on fourth and goal from the five, they scored on a touchdown pass and converted the extra point to go up 7-0. The Wildcats returned the ensuing kickoff to their own 30. On first down, Wildcat quarterback Nick Wasko kept the ball, made a couple of nice moves to free himself and headed down the left sideline. He made a great spin move at the St. Francis 35 that got him an extra six yards. Eight plays later, with a minute left in the first quarter, the Wildcats faced second and goal from the three. Wasko took the snap and started left. Seeing no lane, he moved right and slipped a tackle in the backfield. He headed through a hole on the right side and went into the end one standing up. Bryce Morley nailed the extra point, and the game was tied 7-7.
With about six minutes to go in the first half, the Wildcats faced fourth and five at the St. Francis 35 but lost a yard on the play and St. Francis took over. The teams traded punts and the Saints got the ball back at their own 30 with 1:29 left in the half. On second and three from their on 37, a St. Francis back got loose and looked like he might go all the way. But Tyler Drury chased him down and tackled him from behind at the Wildcat 28, saving a touchdown – or actually, just delaying it for one play. On the next play, the Saints completed a touchdown pass to the front right corner of the end zone with 36 seconds left in the half. St. Francis failed on a strange fake extra point try and led 13-7 at halftime.
St. Francis ate up seven minutes of time plowing down the field in the third quarter and looked like they were about to go up by two touchdowns, facing second and goal at the Wildcats one-yard line. But they mishandled the handoff as Wildcats broke through the line and Wildcat Cole Smith recovered the ball at the seven. “The drive is never over until it’s stopped, or they score,” said Wildcat head coach Bill Weiss. “It would have been pretty easy to roll over and say, ‘they’ve got this one,’ but you never know what will happen and we got the ball back.” The Wildcats’ ensuing drive stalled at their own 42, and after a short punt the Saints started at their on 35. On Second and eight from the 37, the quarterback lofted a pass to the right sideline at the Wildcat 40. Th receiver caught the ball, pulled away from the Wildcat defensive back and ran all the way to the end zone. St. Francis again failedon the two-point conversion, but they now led 19-7.
After another possession by each team, the Wildcats took over on their own 14 with about six minutes left in the game. Three plays later, the Wildcats faced fourth and 20 from their own four-yard line and were forced to punt. The Saints fielded the punt at the Wildcat 35 and returned it down the right side for a touchdown. But they were called for a personal foul on the play and were assessed a 15-yard penalty from the original line of scrimmage, with the down being replayed. The Wildcats now faced fourth and five from their own nineteen and, with just 4:40 left in the game and training by two touchdowns. Wasko completed a pass over the middle to Nate Bluhm to convert the fourth down and the Wildcats began to move the ball up the field. On first and ten from their own 45, Wasko lofted a pass down the right sideline to the 20, where a Wildcat receiver had managed to get several yards behind the St. Francis defenders. But the receiver dropped what looked like a sure touchdown.
On third and eight from their own 47, with 3:40 left in the game, Wasko passed left to Blake Schmidt, and he raced down the left sideline, getting tackled at the eight-yard line. On fourth and goal from the eight, Wasko moved left, turned, and threw a nice ball to a Wildcat receiver at the goal line near the right front corner of the end zone. But the receiver dropped the ball, ending the Wildcat drive just short of the end zone. The Saints took over at the eight and rain out the clock to seal the Wildcats’ 19-7 defeat.
Weiss said “We had a lot of good moments in this one. We had the big stop on the one-yard line. But big pass plays are hard to overcome at the high school level. St. Francis is a grind it out kind of team, but they will sometimes take chances. They hit on a couple of big plays and that ended up being the difference maker. Defensively, they kept us at bay quite a bit. We couldn’t develop consistency and, even though we knocked on the door a couple of times, we couldn’t get the ball into the end zone when we needed to. A couple of players stood out in this one. Max Pulles played a very good game on defense. He sets a good edge. And Reed Bleymeyer stepped in and played well at fullback for an injured Ashton Pearson.
For the second week in a row, the Wildcats (1-4) will face a familiar opponent. They will host the Cambridge-Isanti Bluejackets (1-4) tomorrow night at 7 p.m. at Chisago Lakes High School. Weiss said “Since we don’t play North Branch anymore, this is as close to a rivalry game as we have. They are a big team, as always, and play a balanced offense. Defensively, they are very aggressive and will send a lot of linebackers at you to create difficult situations. It will be a challenge for our offensive line to deal with that. We look forward to a good battle.”