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After a 20-14 semifinal win, St. Vincent will bid for its first
MARIONVILLE, Mo. -- As an eighth-grader, Alex Armbruster remembers watching his big brother play in a state championship game from the Trans World Dome seats.
The name of the championship game site has changed -- now the Edward Jones Dome -- and Armbruster is also hoping for a different result this time as well.
Thanks to St. Vincent's hard-fought 20-14 victory Saturday against Class 1 defending state champion Marionville, Armbruster will get a chance to one-up big bro' this weekend.
The sixth-ranked Indians (12-1) will go for their first state championship at noon Saturday against fourth-ranked East Buchanan (13-0).
"It was something else watching those guys as eighth-graders," said Armbruster, who passed for 69 yards and a touchdown Saturday. "That's definitely what we've been working in the weight room and in practice for the last four years.
"This is what we've been dreaming of."
The title game appearance also will be sweet for St. Vincent coach Keith Winkler, who played offensive guard and linebacker at St. Vincent. He was in his first year as coach when the Indians last made the state championship game.
This year's team has been road warriors, winning all three playoff games away from home.
"That gives us confidence going to the Dome, knowing we can go on the road and win," Armbruster said. "It would have been nice to win at home but it didn't work out like that."
Waylon Richardet rushed for 107 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns, as the St. Vincent offensive line simply overpowered a Marionville defense that had allowed just 107 rushing yards per game through 12 weeks.
With 6-foot-4, 290-pound tackle Mark Prost and 6-4, 220-pound guard Jacob DeWilde paving the way on the left side of the line, St. Vincent finished with 197 yards rushing, 133 in the second half.
"They get off the ball and they are good drive blockers," Winkler said. "They are big boys and they really bring the load for us."
Helped by four Marionville penalties, St. Vincent went on top for good on its first drive after halftime. Richardet scored from the 1-yard line to make the score 14-7 with 6:59 to play in the third quarter.
A personal foul on the Comets was the big play on that series, giving St. Vincent a first down at the Marionville 25-yard-line, instead of facing a third-and-13.
"Penalties will always kill you, especially in big games," said Marionville quarterback and safety Paden Grubbs. "We had a ton of them today, and you can't win doing that kind of stuff."
After holding the Comets on the following possession, St. Vincent went back to work, going 67 yards in 10 plays. On a third-and-16, Armbruster hit Anthony Brown for a 30-yard touchdown pass to make the score 20-7 with 18 seconds left in the third.
Again, it was the offensive line that held up under pressure.
"That was huge," Winkler said of the touchdown pass. "He went back and set and set and set and our lineman really held the front.
"Alex waited until the receiver crossed the zone and hit him in stride. Marionville had great coverage on the play but he had a little too much time and Alex found him."
The Comets trailed by more than a touchdown for the first time in two years and St. Vincent was on the brink of turning it into a fourth-quarter laugher.
But after driving for more than six minutes, the Indians missed a 23-yard field goal and turned it back over to Marionville with 3:13 to play.
The Comets drove 80 yards in seven plays, capped by Josh Holder's 1-yard touchdown run to make it 20-14 with 29 seconds left.
"They are the defending state champions, so we knew that they wouldn't lay down," Armbruster said. "They wanted it just is bad as we did but there wasn't enough time left on the clock."
When the onside kick attempt was cradled by running back Kyle Kline, the celebration was officially on.
Armbruster took two snaps and kneeled on the ball and it was over. After handshakes and a brief huddle, the Indians stormed over to their large group of fans that had made the five-hour trek west.
The Indians will be making their third championship game appearance, losing 30-7 to North Platte in 1998 and 12-0 to Sante Fe in 2000.
Marionville was held to 112 yards rushing and 127 passing, well below its season average of 389 yards per game.
"They are big, strong and physical," Grubbs said. "They are a great team and there's not too many teams out there that could beat them."
St. Vincent served notice early that the Comets would have their hands full. On their first possession, the Indians drove 50 yards in nine plays and Richardet's 5-yard made it 7-0.
The teams traded turnovers in the second quarter, and St. Vincent took over at its own 11 with 5:30 left before halftime.
Moving into the Marionville territory, the Indians then fumbled on an option play and Grubbs took it 11 yards the other way to the St. Vincent 39.
On the next play, Holder went the distance on a pitch play to make it 7-7 with 1:19 before half.
"Coach told us at halftime that if we kept playing like we were, and cut down on that one mistake that we could win," Armbruster said. "We believed that."