Sunday, December 5, 2004

With 105 yards rushing, two touchdowns, seven tackles -- four for losses -- and a sack, it is fair to say St. Vincent junior Waylon Richardet played perhaps one of his most impressive games against East Buchanan.

The fact that his performance came in the Class 1 state championship game at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis made the performance all the more impressive.

Richardet's dominance on defense and his clutch running throughout St. Vincent's state title run helped make him this year's Southeast Missourian Player of the Year.

"Offensively and defensively, he's had a great year," St. Vincent coach Keith Winkler said.

A 6-foot-2, 220 pound junior, Richardet's athletic ability makes him a handful on either side of the ball. The junior led the team in tackles, sacks and yards rushing. Whatever the task presented to him, Richardet was ready at a moment's notice.

"He's going to do anything you ask him. He's an unselfish player," Winkler said. "He works for the good of the team and the program."

After playing on the offensive line last year, Richardet started the 2004 season thinking he would play fullback on the offense. Early in the season he filled that role, helping open holes for St. Vincent's many tailbacks.

Having excelled at bringing down runners on defense, Richardet's physical style made him an ideal fullback.

"I love giving the hit. I don't remember too many times getting the hit," Richardet said. "Defense has helped me a lot on offense."

Through the course of the season, injuries to the Indians' backfield gave Richardet the opportunity to carry the ball more. He made the most of his carries, averaging more than seven yards per rush. Despite only leading the team in carries one game during the playoffs, Richardet led the team in rushing all four games and averaged 97.75 yards per game.

During the championship game, Richardet started the Indians on the right foot with a 51-yard touchdown run on the Indians' opening drive. He finished with 105 yards in the game on 17 carries.

"I just knew we needed big plays. Everyone needed to step up. I felt I had to do my part," Richardet said of his postseason performance.

Added Winkler: "He picked up some big yards. When he gets the carries he makes the most of them."

Richardet's performance down the stretch was indicative of the effort of a motivated squad that featured several seniors. St. Vincent made it to the semifinal or championship round three straight years from 1998 to 2000, with two state runner-up finishes.

After going without a state playoff appearance back-to-back years in 2001 and 2002, the Indians tasted some success in 2003 with a sectional appearance. Once the Indians made their run this season, there was little that would stand in their way.

"The unity of this team is awesome. It's always been a positive attitude," Richardet said. "The senior class, they always knew they had something there."

While the euphoria of a state title has not worn off just yet, thoughts of next season already creep in Richardet's head. Only three starters from the state championship game will return, with a total of 17 seniors graduating.

"We're losing a bunch, but hopefully us three or four will step up and be leaders," Richardet said.

Winkler said he expects Richardet to be one of the team's leaders next season.

"He's kind of a natural leader because of his athletic ability," Winkler said. "He's learned from a lot of people before him how a leader acts."

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