October 11, 2018 at 1:31 p.m.
Despite their 2-3 record going into last Friday’s homecoming game with the St. Francis Fighting Saints, the Wildcats had played well overall and given themselves a chance to win in each of the season’s first five games. But the Wildcats struggled from the outset against the ball-control offense and aggressive defense of the Saints, and the Saints came away from the Chisago Lakes High School football field with a 28-7 win that didn’t seem that close. The game was played in a fine mist that fell throughout the game before an overflow cloud of over 1,500 people.
After the Wildcats game-opening drive stalled near midfield, the Saints took over in decent field position at their own 40 after Will Tinjum’s punt traveled just 18 yards. After the fourth play of the drive, St. Francis faced second and two from the Wildcat 38. St. Francis quarterback Taylor Aho rolled right and Tinjum chased him down and sacked him for a nine-yard loss. But on third and 11, a catch and run of 34 yards gave the Saints a first down at the Wildcat 28. On the tenth play of the drive, running back Carter Pendergrass took a pitch right and waltzed 11 yards through a huge hole untouched into the end zone. The extra point attempt was good, and the Saints led 7-0. The drive had taken over five minutes off the clock.
On the ensuing kickoff, Ryan Sandvik caught the ball at the five and ran to the left. Showing some nifty moves, he ran all the way to midfield before being tackled. But the Wildcats wasted the excellent field position, going three and out. The Saints took over at their own 21-yard line with less than a minute left in the first quarter. The Saints pounded the ball up the middle and had one long completion of 32 yards on a nine-play drive. On first and goal from the two, Dru Dakis plowed up the middle for a touchdown and the Saints led 14-0 with over nine minutes left in the second quarter.
The Wildcats then went on an impressive 16 play scoring drive that took over nearly eight minutes off the clock and was helped along by a couple of long penalties on St. Francis. The Wildcats were forced to punt from their own 46. Tinjum got the punt away, but two St. Francis rushers plowed into him, resulting in a 15-yard roughing the kicker penalty and a first down for the Wildcats at the St. Francis 39. After a sack, a holding penalty and a short run, the Wildcats faced third and 21 from midfield. Wildcat quarterback David Kimlinger was swarmed under on a quarterback keeper and it looked like the Wildcats were going to be forced to punt again. But a 15-yard penalty on the Saints made it third and six at the 35. Kimlinger threw a nice pass to Tim Gregory on the next play for a first down at the Saints’ eight. On second and goal from the four, Kimlinger dropped back to pass, turned to the right and zipped a touchdown pass to Kaleb Bruce three yards deep in the end zone. After Reece Lawlor’s extra point, the Wildcats had cut the lead to 14-7 with 1:28 left in the half. The Wildcat defense force the Saints into a three and out their ensuing possession and the Wildcats trailed by just seven going into halftime.
The Saints opened the second half with a 12-play, 87-yard scoring drive that killed any momentum the Wildcats had built up just prior to halftime. On third and one from the five, the Saints ran up the middle to the three. The Wildcats appeared to recover a fumble on the play, but the officials ruled that the play had been blown dead before the fumble. Three plays later, Pendergrass dove in to the end zone from the three, and the Saints led 21-7 with 6:28 left in the third quarter.
The Wildcats went three and out on their ensuing possession. The Saints took over at their own 40. On third and five from the Wildcat 40, the Saints coughed up the ball and Tinjum fell on it at the 40. The Wildcats had a chance to get back in the game. On the first play of the drive, Kimlinger hit Gregory with a screen to the left. Gregory took off upfield, cut back to the middle and was caught at the 21 of the Saints. On second and 15 from the 26, Kimlinger lofted a nice pass to the end zone. It looked like it might result in a touchdown, but a Saints defensive back snatched the ball away from the Wildcat receiver for an interception and a touchback, thwarting a great scoring chance for the Wildcats. But there was still a full quarter left in the game.
The Wildcats forced the Saints into what looked like a three-and-out at the Saints 27. But the Saints surprised everyone in the stadium with a fake punt that netted them 19 yards and a first down. The Wildcats did force St. Francis to punt a few plays later. The Wildcats picked up a couple of first downs on the ensuing drive, but it stalled at midfield and they punted with just under seven minutes left in the game. The Saints put the game away with a seven-play drive that took four minutes off the clock. On first down from the 20, Dakis went up the middle and appeared to be stopped for no gain. But he bounced outside to the right and ran untouched into the end zone to seal the 28-7 win for the Saints.
Wildcat head coach Bill Weiss said ”We didn’t seem to be able to get on track in any phase of the game. Sometimes, if the offense isn’t going well, the defense picks them up, or vice versa. But in this game, it was disappointing that we couldn’t get either one going. And despite not playing very well, it was only a seven-point game at halftime. We were certainly in it. But St. Francis is a ball control team and they took a lot of time off the clock. We needed to make the most of every offensive possession. We stopped them a few times later in the half, but we needed to convert ourselves and we just didn’t do that.”
The Wildcats (2-4) will head to Buffalo to take on the high-flying Bison (4-2) tomorrow night at 7 p.m. Bison quarterback Aidan Bouman, the son of Buffalo head coach and former Viking quarterback Todd Bouman, has thrown for 2,213 yards and 28 touchdowns so far this season. Receivers Treyton Welch and Jack Munsterteiger have 48 receptions each for nearly 800 yards each, with 20 touchdown receptions between them. The Bison have scored 63 or more points three times this season. They scored 70 against Elk River a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately for them, the Elks put up 80 in the highest scoring game in Minnesota high school history.
So how will the Wildcats approach a team with such a prolific passing offense? Weiss said “They are gong to move the ball. We just have to try to contain them, slow them down. They play a completely different style than what we have faced the last three weeks. We have to be disciplined, react to keys and stick with our assignments. Offensively, we need to control the ball, take time off the clock and score. We can’t get into a traditional shootout with them. Elk River could do it and win, but it would be tough for anyone else to keep up with Buffalo.”