October 18, 2007 at 8:22 a.m.
Quarterback Andy Willhite scored on a 54-yard run against Columbia Heights on the second play from scrimmage. This game, he waited 'til the third play from scrimmage and ran the ball 58 yards to put the Wildcats up 7-0 just 90 seconds into the game.
On the Saints' first drive, defensive back Robert Wilson intercepted a pass to give the Wildcats a first down on the Saints' 38. A pass to tight end Eric Sargeant and a couple of runs by fullback Jake Spehar gave the Wildcats a first down at the 25. On the next play, Spehar went up the middle for 24 yards, getting tackled just short of the goal line. On second and goal, Willhite fired a pass to Wilson running a slant pattern from left to right. Wilson was well-covered, but jumped high to make a nice catch in the end zone and put the Wildcats up 14-0 halfway through the first quarter.
The Wildcats stopped the Saints on their next drive and took over on the SF 49. The drive stalled on the Saint 16 and the Wildcats missed a field goal attempt. The Saints took over on the Wildcat 20. On the fourth play of the drive, the Saint quarterback hit a wide-open receiver in stride. He outran the Wildcat defense to the end zone for a touchdown, making the score 14-7 Wildcats at the end of the first quarter.
Jon Lien's 34 yard kickoff return gave the Wildcats the ball on their own 47-yard line. CL marched down the field on an eight-play drive, highlighted by a 20-yard run by Spehar. On second and goal, Spehar scored from 4 yards out to put the Wildcats up 21-7.
The Wildcats forced the Saints to punt on their next drive. But three plays later, the Saints picked off a Wildcat pass at the Chisago Lakes 29. On the next play, the Saints quarterback threw a middle screen to a running back. The back ran into the front left corner of the end zone. The Saints had once again pulled within seven points.
Lien swung the momentum right back to the Wildcats as he returned the ensuing kickoff for 92 yards and an apparent touchdown. But the touchdown was called back because of a clipping penalty on the Wildcats. On 4th and 18, the Wildcats were forced to punt from their own 18. After a short punt, the Saints took over at the Wildcat 35 yard line. They struck quickly. On third down, they scored on a 30 yard touchdown pass to tie the score at 21-21 with three minutes remaining in the half.
The Wildcats moved the ball well on their final drive of the half, highlighted by Lien's 26 yard run. But the drive was stopped by an interception in the St. Francis end zone, and the game remained tied going into halftime.
The Saints got one first down to open the third quarter. Then, on first and 10 from their own 36, Tony Skoog leapt to intercept a long Saints pass and gave the Wildcats a first down on their own 34. On the next play, running back Brandon Mueller burst through the middle and took off down the left sideline toward the end zone. A Saints defender caught up with him after a 56 yard gain, but the Wildcats had the ball first and goal at the 10. On first down, Lien went up the middle for the touchdown, making the score 28-21 Wildcats.
The Saints went on a long drive to tie the score. Facing fourth and 9 from the Wildcat 15, the Saints completed a pass at the 2 to keep the drive alive. They scored three plays later to cap off a 78 yard, 14 play drive.
But the tie was short-lived. Starting from their own 38, the Wildcats went 62 yards in seven plays. Spehar carried the ball for five of those plays for 43 yards, including a 5 yard touchdown run to put the Wildcats up 35-28.
The Wildcat defense took control on the next Saints possession, forcing them to punt from their own 22 on the first play of the fourth quarter. Punt returner Lien fielded the ball at the Saints 48 yard line, ran toward the middle, cut left, broke a tackle at the 20 and raced into the end zone to put the Wildcats up by two touchdowns.
The Wildcats' now-relentless defense kept up the pressure. On second and 5 from the Saint 45, Mueller and nose tackle Tony Gall sacked the St. Francis quarterback. On the next play, Wilson intercepted a Saints' pass at the Chisago Lakes 33 and returned it to the Saints 39.
A 14 yard run by Spehar gave the Wildcats a first down at the 25. Quarterback Willhite called his own number, slipping through a hole provided by the surging Wildcat offensive line. In a run reminiscent of former Gopher quarterback Rickey Foggie, Willhite used a couple of hip-fakes to confuse the Saints defenders, cut left and blazed to the end zone to make it 49-28 Wildcats with just under nine minutes remaining in the game.
The Saints had one last good drive in them. They moved the ball well. Facing second and 8 from the Wildcat 23, they ran the same pattern three times in a row to their top wide receiver. On the first pass, Wilson ripped the ball out of the receiver's hands for an incompletion. Lien reached in to knock down the second pass. On the final attempt, Wilson unleashed a bone-crushing hit to knock the ball loose and end the scoring threat.
"We had the game in hand at that point," said Wildcat head coach Bill Weiss. "But we still wanted to keep them out of the end zone. Jon and Robert made some nice plays - those were some real good balls he was throwing. That was a good stand by our defense at that point."
On the next drive, running back Zack Butcher capped off the Wildcat scoring with a 54 yard run to make the final score Chisago Lakes 56, St. Francis 28.
Running back Scott Frohwein had a 27 yard run on the Wildcats' final possession. Wildcat placekicker Brandon Mueller made all eight of his extra point attempts in the game.
"The Saints' offense is very unconventional," said Weiss. "It's hard to duplicate in practice. It took our defense a little while to get a rhythm. We didn't make any great adjustments at halftime. We felt good about the groove our offense was in and we knew if we righted ourselves on defense, we'd be all right. Our guys came out and made some plays on defense. After their third quarter touchdown, we were able to keep them out of the end zone. We continued to click on offense and capitalized on our opportunities in the second half."
Fullback Jake Spehar was the Wildcats' workhorse this week, carrying the ball 20 times for 142 yards. "We take whatever the defense gives us," said Weiss. "For whatever reason, this week was a big fullback week for us, and Jake had a great game."
The Wildcats were scheduled to play their final regular season game
yesterday, Wednesday, October 17, against conference powerhouse Irondale. Irondale's only loss so far this year was to Spring Lake Park, the undefeated number one 4A team in the state.
"They're a good team and they've had some big wins," said Weiss. "They're a lot like St. Francis offensively; they have pretty good athletes and distribute the ball well. They have a solid, aggressive defensive style and will provide a big challenge for us. This is going to be a great game with which to wind up the season. You want to play against a tough team when you're gong into the playoffs. It's a good test for us."
CL 56, St. Francis 28
St. Francis 7 14 7 0 28
Chisago Lakes 14 7 14 21 56
C-Willhite 56 run (Mueller kick)
C-Wilson 1 pass from Willhite (Mueller kick)
S-Petersen 61 pass from Musker (Ross kick)
C-Spehar 4 run (Mueller kick)
S-Olafson 29 pass from Musker (Ross kick)
S-Carlton 29 pass from Musker (Ross kick)
C-Lien 10 run (Mueller kick)
S-Kurtz 7 pass from Musker (Ross kick)
C-Spehar 5 run (Mueller kick)
C-Lien 48 punt return (Mueller kick)
C-Willhite 25 run (Mueller kick)
C-Butcher 53 run (Mueller kick)
The Wildcats will open the Section 4, Class 4A playoffs at home Tuesday, October 23. Based upon the section seeding formula, they're already guaranteed at least a number-four seed. The Wildcats are tied with Mahtomedi and St. Paul Johnson in seedings right now. They could end up with a seed as high as number two, depending on what happened Wednesday. One of the seeding tiebreakers is wins over 5A opponents. The 4A Wildcats have already beaten their three 5A opponents so far this year: Farmington, Cooper and St. Francis, and Irondale is also a 5A team.