October 23, 2014 at 2:24 p.m.
It wasn’t just the Wildcats’ difficulty in stopping the Saints’ offense that decided the outcome of this one. The Wildcats also turned the ball over three times deep in their own territory, allowing the Saints to put together three touchdown drives of less than 30 yards each, including two less than 20 yards. Wildcat head coach Bill Weiss said “We saw the previous week at Monticello how much turnovers could hurt us and against a quality opponent like St. Francis just exaggerates your struggles in other areas.”
On the game’s second play from scrimmage, Luke Koskie recovered a fumble on the Fighting Saints’ 46 yard line and it looked like the Wildcats were in business. But the Wildcats only managed four yards on three plays and were forced to punt. St. Francis took over at their own 21 yard line and went 79 yards in 12 plays. On the 12th play of the drive, 235 pound St. Francis fullback Isaiah Brunette plowed up the middle for two yards and a touchdown and the Fighting Saints led 7-0. After another Wildcat punt, the Saints went on another long drive, this time going 71 yards in nine plays. Santiago finished the drive with a seven yard touchdown run, and the Wildcats trailed 14-0 early in the second quarter.
The Wildcats got some offense going on the next drive and looked like they would make a game of it. On the third play, the Wildcats had the ball first and ten. Quarterback Joe Kimlinger dropped back and passed the ball towards the left sideline. The ball went just over the head of the defensive back and into the hands of wide receiver Will Gillach, who hauled in the pass and was knocked out of bounds after a gain of 17 yards. A keeper by Kimlinger picked up 11 yards.
A couple of plays later, facing second and six from the 23, Kimlinger pitched left to running back Joe Virga. Virga made a nice cut to the inside and picked up 13 yards to give the Wildcats first and goal from the ten. On second down from the 8, Kimlinger hit a wide open Gillach over the middle three yards deep in the end zone for a touchdown. After Bryce Thompson’s extra point, the Wildcats had cut the Fighting Saints’ lead to 14-7 with just under seven minutes left in the first half.
St. Francis responded quickly. On the third play of their next drive, they faced third and two at the Wildcat 49. Fighting Saint quarterback Hunter Trautman handed the ball to Santiago. He ran through a big hole up the middle, cut left and ran to daylight, not stopping until he had reached the end zone to put the Fighting Saints up 21-7.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Wildcats had a nice return by Gillach nullified by a chop block penalty. On second and 12 from the Wildcat 12, Kimlinger dropped back and threw a pass to the left. But St. Francis defensive back Jonah Wuollet jumped in front of the ball picked it off and returned it to the five yard line. Two plays later, Santiago scored from the one and the Wildcats now trailed 28-7 with 3:23 left in the first half.
The Wildcats kept battling. A 30 yard kickoff return by Gillach gave the Wildcats great field position at the St. Francis 46 yard line. On second and 7 from the 43, Kimlinger dropped back and fired a long pass downfield. Wide receiver Anders Brown was being harrassed by a St. Francis defensive back and only one hand free. He made a spectacular one-handed diving catch at the two yard line to put the Wildcats in position to score.
Kimlinger took it up the middle on the next play for a touchdown and, after Thompson missed the extra point, the Wildcats were back within two touchdowns at 28-13 with just over two minutes left. St. Francis moved the ball well on the ensuing drive and used its timeouts well. With six seconds left in the half, the Fighting Saints faced second and ten at the Wildcat 25. Trautman’s pass into the end zone was picked off by Ethan Hickcox to end the half.
The Wildcats fumbled at their own 16 on the opening drive of the second half. Santiago ran through a huge hole and scored on the next play to increase the St. Francis lead to 35-13. The Wildcats responded with a 14 play, 79 yard drive capped by a 14 yard touchdown pass over the middle from Kimlinger to Gillach.
Gillach also carried the ball into the end zone for the two point conversion and the lead was cut to 35-21 with 3:41 left in the third quarter. But the Fighting Saints came right back and scored to go up 41-21. The Wildcats muffed the ensuing kickoff and St. Francis recovered at the Wildcat 29 yard line. Two plays later, Trautman threw a 14 yard touchdown pass to his massive tight end, Blake Moreno and the Fighting Saints led 48-21 at the end of the third quarter.
With the game all but over, the Fighting Saints scored another touchdown with about six minutes remaining to lead by 33.
In Minnesota high school football, once a team goes up by 35 points in the fourth quarter the clock runs continuously – sort of a mercy rule.
St. Francis lined up to kick the extra point, which would have given them a 34 point lead. But they faked it and tried to pass for two points. The ball fell incomplete and the score remained 54-21. Wildcat head coach Bill Weiss was clearly not happy with the attempt by St. Francis to go up by 35 and expressed his displeasure towards the St. Francis sideline. From this reporter’s point of view, this was a bush league attempt by St. Francis to embarrass an opponent when the game was clearly over. There was no chance the Wildcats were going to score five touchdowns in six minutes.
Time after time over the years, we have seen Weiss substitute freely when the Wildcats have a commanding lead. “We do it for several reasons,” he said. “We don’t like to embarrass an opponent unnecessarily, we get a chance to get some valuable experience for our reserves and we get to rest our starters.
“The outcome of the game was determined up front,” said Weiss. “That had been a strength of ours this year, but it wasn’t where we needed it to be against St. Francis. And in a game like that you can’t afford turnovers, either. Our turnovers gave them a short field three times and they capitalized each time, ultimately thwarting any chance we had to stay in the game and pull out a win.”
Kimlinger rushed 17 times for 64 yards and Virga carried the ball 17 times for 62 yards for the Wildcats. Kimlinger was 6 for 12 passing for 95 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Gillach caught four passes for 44 yards and two touchdowns to lead Wildcat receivers.
Chisago Lakes 42, Cambridge-Isanti 35
Wildcat running back Joe Virga scored from one yard out with 44 seconds remaining to break a 35-35 tie and gave the fourth-seeded Wildcats a 42-35 win over fifth-seeded Cambridge-Isanti in the quarterfinals of the Section 7AAAAA playoffs. The game was played this past Tuesday, October 21 at Chisago Lakes High School. The Victory sends the Wildcats (7-2 overall) up north to face top seeded Bemidji (7-1) this coming Saturday, October 25. Please check mshsl.org, mississippi8.org or Minnesota-scores.net for the official game time. The loss knocked the Bluejackets (4-5) out of the playoffs.
The Wildcats scored on their first two possessions of the game to take a 14-0 lead. They went 74 yards in five plays on the opening drive. Virga had a 19 yard run and quarterback Joe Kimlinger scored from 27 yards out to get the Wildcats on the board. The Wildcats forced Cambridge into a three and out and took over at the 50 after the Bluejacket punt. Two runs by Virga moved the ball to the 29. After a false start penalty and an incomplete pass, the Wildcats faced third and seven at the 34. Virga got the call again, broke free and ran 34 yards for a touchdown to put the Wildcats up by two touchdowns with just under seven minutes left in the first quarter.
The Bluejackets came right back down the field and scored in just seven plays. Bluejacket quarterback John Solberg ran up the middle untouched from ten yards out to cut the Wildcat lead to 14-7 with 4:27 left in the first quarter. The Wildcats moved the ball well on the next drive, despite a couple of penalties and a fumbled pitch that was recovered for a loss by the Wildcats. On second and 18 from the Wildcat 34, Kimlinger had a nice 14 yard run up the middle. After a false start penalty moved the ball back five yard, fullback Drake Gadbois took the handoff up the middle, gave a nice hip fake after gaining five yards and broke free. He was tackled after a gain of 19 yards and a first down. On first down from the 29, Kimlinger rolled right and passed to Will “Guido Merkens” Gillach for 16 yards and a first down. On the next play, Virga took a pitch right and, after a beautiful inside outside move, was knocked out of bounds at the one. On first and goal, Virga took a handoff up the middle. He crossed the goal line by inches holding the ball in front of him and was stood up, which clearly should have been a touchdown. The ball was knocked out of his hands and the Bluejackets recovered it at the one, which shouldn’t have mattered after the touchdown. But somehow the referee with the clearest view of the play ruled that Virga had not scored and the ball was awarded to the Bluejackets.
On the ensuing Bluejackets drive, Trevin Nelson caused a fumble and Virga recovered at the Wildcat 49. After a three and out and a punt, the Bluejackets took over at their own 18. On third and 17 from the 22, Solberg fired a pass over the middle. At the 35, the ball bounced off of the hands of Bluejacket receiver Michael Durie and into the hands of Gillach. Gillach hung onto the ball, ran right and was pushed out of bounds at the one. Kimlinger dove into the end zone two plays later and the Wildcats were up 21-7 with five minutes left in the second quarter. On the ensuing drive, the Bluejackets faced third and 12 on the Wildcat 43. Solberg handed off to Austin Schlenker, who had been in motion from right to left. Schlenker just dropped the ball. Michael Dunne scooped it up for the Wildcats and was ten yards downfield before the Bluejackets even reacted. Escorted by six or seven teammates, Dunne ran 55 yards for a touchdown and the Wildcats led 28-7 with 1:13 left in the first half. The kickoff was returned to the Bluejacket 21. On the first play of the drive, Solberg kept the ball, ran around left end, made a couple of nice moves and ran 79 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to 28-14 with less than a minute left in the half.
The teams exchanged punts to open the second half, giving Cambridge the ball at their own 21. On second and three from the 28, Solberg took the shotgun snap and rolled right. No one was open, so he pulled the ball down and headed up the middle. He cut left after a few yards, wove his way to the left sideline and outraced the Wildcat defense to the end zone for a 72 yard touchdown run that cut the Wildcat lead to 28-21. Ethan Hickcox nearly broke free for a touchdown on the ensuing kickoff, but was slowed down and finally tackled at the Cambridge 48. But the Wildcats failed to capitalize on the excellent field position and were forced to punt. The Bluejackets took over at their own 16. They went on a nine play drive, seven of which were carries by running back Eli Iglesias. On first and goal from the five, Iglesias ran untouched into the end zone to tie the game at 28-28 with 11:18 left in the fourth quarter.
The Wildcats fumbled on their next possession and Cambridge took over at their own 39. On fourth and 18 from their 31, Solberg dropped back to punt. The Aussie-style punter ran to his right and kicked the ball on the run as Wildcat Dylan Wood closed in on him. Wood blocked the punt and it went just a few yards forward, rolling dead at the Cambridge 29. On the next play, Kimlinger headed up the middle, broke free and ran to the end zone for a touchdown to put the Wildcats up 35-28 with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter.
But Cambridge came right back down the field on the next drive. On the eighth play of the drive, Solberg scored from five yards out to tie the game at 35-35. After the ensuing kickoff, the Wildcats took over at their own 28 with 3:37 remaining. Drake Gadbois led the way, carrying the ball five times for 36 yards on the drive. On third and four from the Bluejacket 34, Kimlinger went up the middle, was hit after he had gained about ten yard and dragged a couple of tacklers down to the 13. Gadbois ran up the middle for 12 yards down to the one. Virga, in motion from right to left, took a handoff from Kimlinger and cut up the middle through a nice hole untouched for a touchdown. The Wildcats led 42-35 with 44 seconds remaining.
On a final desperate drive, Cambridge managed to move the ball a little and faced fourth and five on the Wildcat 43. Solberg showed off his arm with a long pass into the end zone. It was intercepted by defensive back Bryce Thompson as the gun went off, sealing the 42-35 win and the trip to Bemidji for the Wildcats.
If you like to see a lot of rushing yards, you weren’t disappointed in this game – over 700 yards of it between the two teams. Three Wildcats ran for over 100 yards apiece. Virga had 10 carries for 120 yards, Kimlinger carried the ball 13 times for 130 yards and Gadbois toted the rock 14 times for 105 yards.
On the Cambridge side, Solberg ran 19 times for 229 yards and Iglesias rushed 23 times for 148 yards. Wildcat kicker Bryce Thompson was a perfect seven for seven on extra points and the Cambridge kicker made all six of his extra point attempts
An emotional senior quarterback Joe Kimlinger, who seemed to play with a little extra grit and determination , reflected on his final home game. “I just know how much I am going to miss this,” he said. “I’m just trying to make it last. I will never play here again. It’s hard to even get the words out of my mouth. We had a lot of fun this year. This is a great group of guys and it doesn’t even matter if we’re playing football. We are looking forward to Saturday. We are going to rest up, prepare and come back hard. If we get through that game, we have a great chance to make a run at state.”
“Joe Kimlinger certainly had some big plays tonight,” said Wildcat head coach Bill Weiss. “He’s the types of player who can make things happen. And Cambridge is a tough team. Their record was only 4-4 coming in, but they play a very tough schedule in the other half of the conference. So this was a hard fought, well-earned win for us. Now, we have to head up to Bemidji. This is the third year in a row we will have faced them in the playoffs, so we are familiar with their style of play even though we will have to deal with some new personnel. They’ve got a quarterback who can make things happen. We have our work cut out for us, but we will have a confident group of players after tonight’s win.”
The Wildcats’ will play Bemidji on Saturday, October 25 at 3 p.m.