Chiefs swap punches with Saints before pulling away in finale
Week 9 — I-70 Conference — Saint Paul Lutheran HS
Santa Fe 44
Saint Paul 18
A back-and-forth game finally busted open in the third quarter when the Santa Fe High School Chiefs football team played host to the Saint Paul Lutheran High School Saints in Week 9 action.
The regular season finale was anyone’s game heading into its second half, but the Chiefs dug down and pulled out a victory to end their three-game skid, winning 44-18.
This matchup comes a week ahead of the Class 1 District 5 tournament, which both teams will be competing in for the chance at a state tournament birth.
After Chiefs senior quarterback Dakota Boehmer connected with junior Lane Borchers for a two-yard touchdown completion to cap off a long opening drive, the Saints clapped back with a rushing touchdown from the goal line by senior Adrian Damrongchai, tying the score at 6-6 following two missed extra-point opportunities.
A good defensive stand by the Saints wasn’t rewarded properly, as they were pinned deep in their own territory following a Chiefs punt. Just a few plays later, Saints senior Luke Roepe was intercepted for a 30-yard pick-six by junior Drew Schmidt - his fifth interception of the season and fourth against I-70 Conference competition. A missed 2pt conversion rendered the score 12-6 in Santa Fe’s favor, but the Saints would answer quickly with a 40-yard touchdown pass from Roepe to fellow senior Josiah Kunkel. A blocked PAT attempt - their second allowed in as many opportunities - left the score at 12-12 heading into the halftime intermission.
A surprise onside kick to start the second half from the Saints was successfully recovered, and the Saints were able to move the ball inside of Santa Fe’s 10, but a tipped pass from Roepe was intercepted at the eight yard line and taken all the way back to the house by junior. The subsequent two-point conversion was ran successfully, moving the score to 20-12 in the Chiefs’ favor.
20-12 would be the smallest deficit of the rest of the game, as senior Austin Edwards (34-yard rush, 2pt conversion good) and sophomore Owen Hostetter (five-yard rush, two-point conversion good) would each record rushing touchdowns before the third quarter drew to a close, running the tally up to 36-12 Chiefs.
Junior Collin Kuecker would punch in the final touchdown of the game from the goal line to move the score to 44-12, where it would ultimately rest.
Boehmer found the end zone once in his 10 passing attempts, completing eight for an efficient 93 yards.
For the first time all season, Boehmer recorded no rushing attempts, instead relying on a triage of Chiefs to move the pigskin on the ground and into the end zone. Edwards only needed nine carries to pick up 101 yards, including his 34-yard touchdown rumble. Hostetter’s 12 carries translated to 40 yards, while Kuecker tallied 43 yards on his seven carries. All three scored a rushing touchdown as well.
The Chiefs’ main pass-catching option lived up to his reputation once again, as junior
Hunter Ballenger led the team in both catches (three) and yards receiving (59). Borchers’s two receptions netted a combined 31 yards and a touchdown.
Both Kuecker and Borchers notched their first varsity touchdowns in the contest.
Edwards (10 tackles), Ballenger (eight tackles), and Hostetter (seven tackles, one sack) joined Schmidt as Chiefs who produced big games on the defensive side as well.
For the Saints, Roepe completed 10/31 passes for 121 yards and a pair of interceptions and touchdowns each. Like his counterpart Boehmer, Roepe also deferred carrying the ball, instead electing to find receivers and hand the ball off to one of his backs.
Junior Kaden Olson and sophomore Logan Muehler took 20 carries each, resulting in very similar yields of 72 yards and 67 yards, respectively.
With as much as the Saints were throwing the ball in this Week 9 matchup, multiple receivers had their numbers called. Olson (11 yards) and senior Trey Beerman (13 yards) each caught two passes, while Kunkel and sophomore Ethan Kirby caught three passes and a touchdown each. Kirby accrued 35 yards through the air, while Kunkel contributed 62.
Kunkel and Muehler each recovered a fumble, while Olson joined Kunkel in recording seven tackles each. Beerman was hot on their trail, finishing with six. Juniors Lex Wheeler and Nick Graham each recorded a sack.
“I was really proud of how our team came out in the second half and focused up,” Chiefs head coach Alex McClafferty said. “After blowing a halftime lead last week, to turn around and perform like they did in the second half of the game last night, I was very proud.”
The Chiefs moved their final record to 3-6 (3-3) with the victory. They will look to extend their season with a victory in the first game of the Class 1, District 5 playoffs.
The Saints fell to 1-8 (0-6), where their regular season record will rest ahead of their Class 1, District 5 tournament game.
The Saints found themselves with the eighth seed in the tournament, meaning the metaphorical “Davids” will travel to Marceline HS on Friday, Nov. 1 for a matchup with the top-seeded, 8-1 Tigers with the hopes of ending the Goliath’s season a few rounds early.
Santa Fe tied down the sixth seed, so their matchup will be with a familiar foe - the third-seeded Sweet Springs High School Greyhounds (6-3, 6-0). Sweet Springs - who finished second in the I-70 Conference this season - had a field day with Santa Fe earlier in the season, blowing Santa Fe out to the tune of a 56-6 drubbing back in Week 6.
That match will also be held Friday, Nov. 1 and will be held in Sweet Springs.