October 20, 2011 at 9:30 a.m.
The Wildcats had an inspiring goal line stand in front of a standing room only homecoming crowd in the first quarter to keep the game against St. Francis scoreless. But a short punt, from deep in the Wildcat zone, and an interception led to two short scoring drives for the Fighting Saints.
Trailing the Saints 21-7 at the half, the Wildcats cut the lead to a touchdown in the third quarter, but a fourth quarter drive by the Saints salted this one away to beat the Wildcats 30-14 Friday, October 14 at Chisago Lakes.
After a nice punt return, the Fighting Saints started their first drive at the Wildcat 45. Facing third and two from the Wildcat 35, Saints running back Jake Engnall broke several tackles and raced toward the right front corner of the end zone. But Josh Parks chased him down and tackled him two yards short of the end zone.
On first down from the two, Engnall was stuffed up the middle by Dan Sargeant for a two yard loss. On second down, Engnall tried the middle again but was tackled by Brandon Mariakis and Jonah Westbury for a one yard loss. The Saints tried a pitch to the right to Engnall, but Brandon Fenner and Parks tackled Engnall for another one yard loss. The Saints went for it on fourth down from the six yard line. Their pass into the left side of the end zone was broken up by Trevor Thurnbeck to finish off the goal line stand.
Starting at the six, the Wildcats moved the ball to the 26, where they faced fourth and two. A 12 yard punt gave the Saints the ball at the Wildcat 38 yard line. They passed for 24 yards on first down. Three plays later, Engnall scored from the eight, sneaking inside the front left pylon. The extra point gave the Saints a 7-0 lead.
After a touchback, the Wildcats began their next drive at their own 20 yard line. After one first down, the Wildcats faced second and eight from the 32. Wildcat quarterback Bradee Thompson dropped back and lofted a pass toward a wide open Parks near the left sideline. But a Saints defensive back raced in and slapped the ball away. Unfortunately, it ended up in the arms of a Saints' defender, who returned the interception to the Wildcat 24. Engnall scored four plays later on a six yard run up the middle, and the Saints led 14-0 with 10:19 left in the second quarter.
The Saints forced the Wildcats into a three and out on their next possession. They started their next drive from their own 38 after a punt. On first down, Engnall burst free for another long run, and he was again chased down from behind by the fleet-footed Parks, this time at the 16. On third down, quarterback Warren Baumann broke free up the middle, was spun around by Jake Sandgren at the five, but Baumann fell into the end zone to put the Saints up 21-0.
The Wildcats began their next drive at their own 20 with seven minutes left in the first half and went on a 14- play drive that ate nearly six minutes off the clock. On second and 12 from the 18, Thompson hit Kimlinger over the middle for a 24 yard gain and a first down. The Wildcats ran the ball most of the rest of the way. On third and goal from the nine, Thompson hit wide open tight end Brandon Gorski in the middle of the end zone to get the Wildcats on the board. Sargeant made the extra point, and the Wildcats trailed 21-7 going into halftime.
"At the time, that was a critical score," said Wildcat head coach Bill Weiss. "At halftime, we were still in a position to come back. We had a long sustaining drive and were able to move the ball. That gave us something to work with at halftime."
The third quarter was scoreless. The Wildcats faced fourth and three at the Saints' 32 to open the fourth quarter. Thompson dropped back to pass and threw toward Gorski at the left sideline. Gorski spun to his right to catch the ball off his back shoulder, giving the Wildcats eight yards and a first down. Parks ran for 16 yards on the next play. Two plays later, Sargeant ran through a hole up the middle and barely slowed down when he was hit at the two, barreling into the end zone. After he made the extra point, the Wildcats trailed 21-14 with 10:33 left in the games.
But the Saints sealed the win with a 12 play, 61 yard drive that took over six minutes off the clock. Engnall (who else?) scored from six yards out to stretch the Saints' lead to 28-14. The Saints added a safety when the snap on a Wildcat punt attempt bounced through punter Thurnbeck's legs and out of the end zone to make the final score St. Francis 30, Chisago Lakes 14.
Parks led the Wildcats on the ground with 12 rushes for 75 yards. The Saints' Engnall finished with 185 yards on 26 carries.
"Those two short drives really put us in a hole," said Weiss. "Those are the kinds of drives that any running offense is made for, since they were immediately in four down territory. We couldn't afford to give them those opportunities and they certainly capitalized on them. When we cut the lead to 21-14 in the fourth quarter, we really needed to make a stop and get the ball back to the offense. There was only one turnover in this game - the interception they got in the first half - and it certainly proved to be a big factor. We needed to get a takeaway from them and that didn't happen."
Saints kicker Tyler Dustman kicked all five of his kicks into or through the end zone for touchbacks, keeping speedy Wildcats Eric Brown, Thurnbeck and Parks from attempting any kickoff returns. Weiss said, "He has been doing that consistently all year. We thought maybe with the wind against him for two of the quarters we may have been able to do some things. But he even got a lot of distance into the wind. When you can consistently do that as a team it's a nice weapon to have, making the other team start every drive from long distance."
The Wildcats (3-4 overall) will begin Section 4AAAA tournament play Tuesday, October 25. Whether or not they have a home game may depend on the outcome of Wednesday's game at Benilde-St. Margaret's.
You can find out the game time and location at nsconference.org or mshsl.org. You can read all about it and about next Tuesday's section tournament game in next week's edition of the Chisago County Press.
The stadium was packed and the crowd was rowdy for Chisago Lakes homecoming last week.
The Wildcats broke through the cheerleaders' banner to kick off the homecoming festivities.
A group of Chisago Lakes defenders takes down St. Francis running back Jake Engnell.