October 21, 2010 at 8:43 a.m.

Chisago Lakes tops St. Francis in overtime shootout

Chisago Lakes tops St. Francis in overtime shootout
Chisago Lakes tops St. Francis in overtime shootout

The Wildcats stuffed a two-point conversion attempt in overtime, winning 42-41 to spoil homecoming for the St. Francis Fighting Saints last Friday, October 15 at St. Francis. Trailing by one after just having scored a touchdown in overtime, the Fighting Saints decided to go for two rather than tie the game with an extra point. They used behemoth running back Jon Lucas (6'0', 245 pounds) to plow up the middle. But the Wildcat defense came up big. Brandon Fenner got underneath the big offensive lineman on his side and pushed him back a little. This made it difficult for Lucas to get through the line and forced him to fall sideways. Nate Gilman wrapped him up and the rest of the Wildcat defense helped to push him back. They stopped Lucas six inches shy of the goal line, and the jubilant Wildcats had their fifth win of the season. "We struggled defensively all game," said Wildcat head coach Bill Weiss," but we came up with the big play when we needed it at the end."

The Wildcats trailed 7-0 near the end of the first quarter and faced fourth and 10 from the Saints' 35 yard line. Quarterback Jeff Sargeant hit Jordan Hickcox over the middle for 25 yards and a first down. Two plays later, on the first play of the second quarter, freshman running back Josh Parks took a handoff at the four, got hit hard at the goal line and hit the ground. After several seconds, the referees signaled a touchdown. Parks had the first touchdown of his career. After Kyle Buchanan converted the extra point, the score was tied at 7-7.

After a St. Francis punt, the Wildcats took over at their own 41 with just under nine minutes left in the second quarter. On second and 9 from the 42, Sargeant rolled left. He hit Hickcox in stride about 15 yards down the field near the left hash mark just as Hickcox separated himself from the defensive back. Hickcox cradled the ball and ran the final 45 yards for a touchdown to put the Wildcats up 14-7.

After the Fighting Saints kicked a field goal to cut the lead to 14-10, the Wildcats went right back to work from their own 23 yard line. On second and 13 from the 35, Sargeant threw toward Hickcox over the middle. Hickcox picked the ball off his shoe tops in stride and ran all the way to the St. Francis 35 for a 30 yard gain. The Fighting Saints lived up to their full nickname, committing personal fouls on the next two plays to move the ball inside the ten yard line. On first and goal from the nine, Parks ran right and spun right at the goal line and into the end zone to put the Wildcats up 21-10 with 1:11 remaining in the half.

The Saints returned the ensuing kickoff all the way to the Wildcat 40. Nine plays later, they kicked a 31 yard field goal with 6.6 seconds left on the clock, and the teams went into halftime with the score Chisago Lakes 21, St. Francis 13.

The Saints came out of the locker room with a lot of enthusiasm and it carried over to their first drive. Staring from their own 38, they took just six plays to score. The extra point attempt sailed wide right, and the Wildcats led 21-19.

The Wildcats answered with a 13 play drive of their own that took five minutes off the clock. On first and ten from the 40, Parks went up the middle for eight yards. Another Saint personal foul penalty moved the down to the St. Francis 37. Parks was injured on the next play and had to leave the game. "Josh has a broken ankle and will be out for the season," said Weiss. "But he's going to be a special player for us the next three years."

Seven plays later, the Wildcats faced fourth and six on the St. Francis 18. Sargeant rolled left and hit Josh Wilson at the five, but the catch was made out of bounds. St. Francis shot themselves in the foot again, however. They committed yet another personal foul, this time for roughing the passer, and gave the Wildcats a first down at the nine. On second and goal from the eight, Sargeant rolled around right end, leaped over someone at the two and ran into the end zone to give the Wildcats a 28-19 lead with four minutes left in the third quarter.

The Saints began the next drive from their own 24. On the first play, Hickcox made a diving interception at the 50. Two plays later, the Saints' fifth personal foul penalty gave the Wildcats a first down at the Saints' 32 yard line. But the Wildcats fumbled on the next play. Four plays later, the Saints faced fourth and one on their own 41. They went for it and the Wildcats appeared to make the stop. But a personal foul for unsportsmanlike conduct on the Wildcats gave the Saints a first down at the Wildcat 42. Four plays later, on the first play of the fourth quarter, the Saints went over the goal line from the one. They converted a two pointer to cut the lead to 28-27 Wildcats.

The Wildcats went three and out on their next possession and the Saints took over at their own 42. They scored eight plays later and the two point conversion put them up 35-28 with 7:13 to play. The Wildcats answered one more time. Hickcox returned the kickoff to the Wildcat 37. On third and 17 from the 30, Sargeant rolled left and passed to a wide open Hickcox for a first down. Six plays later, facing third and two from the Saints' 35, Sargeant ran left, burst through the line and ran all the way to the end zone for a touchdown. Buchanan kicked the extra point, and the score was tied at 35 with just under four minutes left in the game.

Buchanan lofted the kickoff toward the right sideline deep in St. Francis territory. The return man attempted to field the ball at the one. But he muffed it and, as he bent over to pick it up, kicked it out of bounds at the one. "Buchanan's kick was one of the biggest plays of the game," said Weiss. "Kyle was aiming toward the spot that he hit because we want to avoid a big return. When the player mishandled it, it created a great field position advantage for us. They couldn't do anything with it and it allowed us to go into overtime."

On fourth down from their own ten, the Saints eschewed the punt and decided to go for it. They gave it to Lucas and he got two yards to give the Saints a new set of downs. They moved the ball out to the 48 and before the Saints were forced to punt. The Wildcats got the ball back on their own nine with nine seconds left and took a knee to send the game into overtime.

Starting from the 10, the Wildcats moved backwards on their first two plays and faced third down at the 16. Sargeant dropped back to passed and lofted one to the front left corner of the end zone. Benj Figini leaped, caught it and hung on as he hit the ground for a touchdown. The extra point made it 42-35 Wildcats. It was the Saints turn, and they pushed the ball down to the one. On fourth down, they handed the ball to Lucas and he rumbled into the end zone to cut the lead to one. But the Wildcats stopped the two pointer, the game was over and the Wildcats had pulled out a thrilling, come from behind win in overtime.

Sargeant once again had a good game with his arm, finishing 8 for 16 for 192 yards and two touchdowns. Hickcox had four catches for 131 yards. Brian Kelley had a 36 yard reception in the first quarter. The Wildcats rushed for 186 yards, and Sargeant led the way with 64 yards on 10 carries. Weiss said "Jeff had a nice game throwing the ball and running the ball. He made some nice decisions out there. He just seems to elevate his game every week and is able to make plays at right time. On third and long, he is able to run or pass and just make some things happen."

Despite their overall struggles defensively, a couple of players stood out. Alex Vitalis, returning from an injury, played like a man possessed. He had at least a dozen tackles, including one in which he held on to the edge of an opponent's jersey for several seconds while lying on the ground, giving his teammates a chance to come and knock the runner over. Weiss said "Alex clearly provides more stability and depth at the linebacker position for us. We were very thin there last week, so it was a good time for him to return to the lineup for us." And Riley Doriott showed what perseverance can do. During a play in the third quarter, he broke through the line and disrupted a pitchout. The ball hit the ground and the running back picked it up and ran to the right. As he rounded right end looking for a big gain, who was there to greet him but Doriott. Doriott had pursued the runner all the way across the filed. "Riley is a pretty headsy guy," said Weiss.

Jordan Hickcox also had a big impact for the Wildcats. Weiss said "He showed up offensively with several catches, had a nice interception and gave us great run support on defense all night. Especially in last couple of weeks, Jordan is starting to pick it up and really make his presence known."

"Both teams had their moments in all phases of game," said Weiss. "We had just enough gas in the tank to pull it out at the end. It was an emotional game. It was their homecoming and a pretty exciting atmosphere to be in. We feel real good about the win."

The Wildcats (5-2 overall, 4-2 conference) were scheduled to play Benilde-St. Margaret's at home last night and results of the game were not available when this edition of the paper went to press. They will play their first section game next Tuesday, most likely at home at 7 p.m.

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