By Ron Busch
The cloudy sky parted for a short time Sunday, Oct. 30, for the 2016 seventh- and eighth-grade CYO football championship game at the University of Saint Francis.
The St. Vincent Panthers started with a surprise offensive play that resulted in a St. Charles interception by Callen Stauffer, and St. Charles took to its own offense, led by quarterback Brenden Lytle. It appeared that the Cardinals had the ball and the momentum early on; the Panthers, however, played some outstanding defense and were able to stop a St. Charles drive that appeared destined for the scoreboard.
St. Vincent took over deep in its own territory, led by quarterback Carson Podschlne, and attempted to gain some better field position. On a third and 11 play the Cardinals’ middle linebacker Devon Tippmann intercepted an errant pass and cruised into the end zone for six points. This was followed by a Quinn Gillig two-point kick, and the St. Charles team had cracked the scoreboard with an 8-0 lead with 2:09 left in the first quarter. The Cardinals kicked off and held the Panthers as the first quarter came to a close.
Early in the second quarter the Panthers were forced to punt on a fourth and 22. A holding penalty on the next St. Charles possession forced the Cardinals back to a first and 25 yards to go. Amir Drew turned on the after-burners and jetted 82 yards, with 6:24 left in the quarter, to up the score.
Gillig’s “golden toe” ramped up the score to 16-0. After a couple exchanges of possession St. Charles recovered a bad snap fumble over the St. Vincent’s quarterback’s head, and appeared set to score once more when the Panthers intercepted a long pass at the 1-yard line. It looked like opposing players both had come down with the ball, but apparently the Panthers wrestled it from the Cardinals.
It appeared that the teams would end the half without further scoring. But St. Charles had other ideas, and used their remaining time-outs to regain possession with less than 1 minute on the clock. From the St. Vincent 32-yard line the Cardinals’ Sam Pesa converted a touchdown on a 32-yard pass play with a mere 7.2 seconds left. After the extra-points kick, the score read St. Charles 24, St. Vincent 0.
The Panthers had yet to give up. On the opening kickoff of the second half they recovered an onside kick that lifted the team’s spirits, but unfortunately, they were unable to move the ball up the field. St. Charles took over, and in a drive that featured three plays with three consecutive first downs, Sam Pesa was once again on the receiving end of an 18-yard pass play that left 4:10 to go in the third. A blocked extra-points kick, and the score was now 30-0 in favor of the mighty Cardinals.
Momentum was clearly with the Cardinals as the fourth quarter began. St. Charles seventh grader Henry O’Keefe made a 55-yard running play with 7:47 remaining. With the extra-points kick, the game looked out of reach at 38-0.
St. Vincents’ Luke Woenker was yet to be convinced. He took the Cardinals’ kickoff the length of the field to post eight points, with the extra kick, that brought the score to 38-8. That’s where it remained as the running clock ticked off the seconds. The game ended as St. Vincent gathered a fumble recovery; a final pass fell incomplete and St. Charles had its 29th straight varsity win, along with another CYO championship title.
St. Charles plays Sunday, Nov. 6, at South Bend’s St. Joseph High School for the diocesan championship. A third place diocesan game will feature the runner-up St. Vincent Panthers.
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