St. Vincent defenders dominate in 21-0 victory

Sunday, November 28, 2004

ST. LOUIS -- St. Vincent's dominant defense made its final appearance of the year a memorable one, forcing a Show Me Bowl-record six interceptions and eight turnovers in a 21-0 win over East Buchanan on Saturday in the Class 1 state football championship game at the Edward Jones Dome.

After throwing only three interceptions throughout the season, East Buchanan quarterback Mart Burtson was picked off six times in the game. The Bulldogs also fumbled the ball four times, losing two on the way to tying the Show Me Bowl record for turnovers in a game.

"We knew coming in we had to win the turnover battle," St. Vincent coach Keith Winkler said.

St. Vincent (13-1) scored seven points off the Bulldogs' eight turnovers, but more importantly was able to control the clock with so many possessions. The Indians had the ball a total of 31 minutes and 12 seconds, compared to just under 17 minutes for East Buchanan (13-1).

East Buchanan coach Ron Musser said the credit for the turnovers belongs on the side of St. Vincent's defense.

"I think it was mostly the defense. They played outstanding defense," he said.

Danny Rellergert helped lead the way for the Indians' defense with three interceptions. Rellergert's main job was to key in on 6-foot-5 receiver Andrew Mead, who entered the game with 53 catches for 1,069 yards.

"Danny's a great leaper, he's very tall," Winkler said of his 6-4 senior. "We knew he could play with him."

Overall, the Bulldogs managed just 188 yards of offense. Burtson was held to 11-of-31 passing for 136 yards. Mead finished with six receptions for 55 yards.

"You could tell they were well coached. They knew every rout we run," Mead said.

East Buchanan's 2,000-yard rusher, Adam Barber, had just 56 yards on 18 carries. Barber managed just 17 yards after halftime.

"Whenever you'd see a hole there was always a linebacker coming in," Barber said.

East Buchanan came into the game with a 37.2 point per game average and had more than 4,800 yards of offense heading into the game.

St. Vincent junior defensive lineman Waylon Richardet said he was not surprised by the way his team's defense shut down the hire-powered Bulldog offense.

"I could perfectly imagine it. We've been doing it all year," he said after being asked if he could have imagined shutting out the Bulldogs.

All the offense the Indians would need came within the first three minutes of the game. After taking the ball off the opening kickoff, St. Vincent marched down the field for a five-play, 77-yard drive which ended on a Richardet 51-yard touchdown run. Kyle Kline's extra point put St. Vincent up 7-0 with 9:37 left in the quarter.

Winkler said after poor starts in St. Vincent's previous two state championship games in 1998 and 2000, getting a good start was vital.

"In the two years we started off very slow ... We knew we had to start strong," he said.

East Buchanan's offense looked like it would live up to its numbers on its opening drive. The Bulldogs gained 59 yards on 10 plays before throwing an interception near the St. Vincent goal line. East Buchanan had five plays of 10 yards or more on the drive, but that would be the last time the Bulldogs had a serious threat to score.

The Bulldogs' next three possessions of the half resulted in 73 yards, a fumble, a punt and two interceptions.

Rellergert said the Indians noticed something in film which helped them defend the Bulldogs' strong passing attack.

"Whenever he [Burtson] would snap the ball we could read his eyes. Our cornerbacks were getting off the ball real quick," he said.

St. Vincent had an opportunity to put up another score in the opening half, but a Kline 27-yard field goal attempt hit the right upright. Despite four turnovers, the Bulldogs still were in the game down only 7-0 at half.

After starting off with the ball in the second half, East Buchanan quickly tried to get its passing game on track. Barber caught a 30-yard pass on a third and long to help push the Bulldogs near midfield. A false start penalty and some strong Indian defense halted the drive, though, forcing East Buchanan to punt.

"We felt like if we came right down and stuffed it in it would be a ball game. That didn't happen," Musser said.

The rest of the second half was a simple matter of ball control and field position. In the second half East Buchanan had the ball eight times, with its opening drive of two minutes and 15 seconds the longest of the half. The Bulldogs had six possessions of three plays or less, including three possessions in which it turned the ball over on the first play. East Buchanan's best starting position in the second half was its own 33.

"Our defense was on the field an awful lot," Musser said. "They were getting awful tired."

St. Vincent added a touchdown late in the third quarter on a 10-yard pass from Alex Armbruster to Rellergert for a 14-0 lead, then scored on a 7-yard run from Richardet in the last minute of the game to end the scoring.

Richardet led the offense with 105 yards on 17 carries. Dustin Winkler added 103 yards on 19 carries. Richardet also had seven tackles, four for loss. Justin Ruessler had two interceptions for St. Vincent and Joey Guilliams had one.

Rellergert also had a big day on special teams for St. Vincent. He averaged 31.4 yards on seven punts, with two inside the 20. His average was hurt by several strong angled punts which pinned the Bulldogs down.

"The kid's a good punter," Musser said. "We didn't see that on tape, but he did an outstanding job of punting."

The win marked the fourth state title for St. Vincent, but first in football. The Indians had made the finals on two previous occasions.

"I've been here for five years. This has been a tradition-rich program," Winkler said. "We've had a lot of kids lead the way. We've had them come back and help these kids."

Kline said it was just a culmination of years of hard work.

"We kept pushing ourselves to the next goal," he said.

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