St. Vincent celebrates its first state football crown

Sunday, December 5, 2004

A week after St. Vincent brought home its first football state title with a 21-0 victory against East Buchanan in the Class 1 title game at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, family and fans packed the American Legion Hall in Perryville on Saturday to celebrate the team's accomplishment.

The Indians, a veteran squad with 17 seniors, finished 13-1. The Indians put winning before individual stats -- St. Vincent rushed for more than 3,000 yards but only had two backs carry the ball 100 times -- and used that team-first philosophy to carry it to a state title.

"This is a team game, and they took that to heart," St. Vincent coach Keith Winkler said when he addressed the crowd.

All four St. Vincent coaches spoke, as did St. Vincent's three senior captains along with various parents, politicians and alumni. The standing-room only crowd came to their feet after nearly every speech, and most stuck around to thank the players after the banquet was over.

Senior captain Brian Buchheit made sure to thank the support of the fans when he got up to speak.

"The support we received from these fans has been tremendous," Buchheit said. "It's a great thing to see our city come together."

Added senior captain Kyle Kline: "Not many teams had support like we did."

Fan support was important for a team that played all four of its state playoff games away from home. St. Vincent's first three road trips saw the team take four- and five-hour bus rides just to get to the games.

Kline said he felt like they had more fans for the road games than the host teams did.

"Our fans drowning out the opposing fans fired us up for every play," he said.

Aside from the gratitude that was spread around, the banquet was also full of hardware. Players and coaches received their state medals, and the alumni association even presented the team with a a trophy modeled after the NFL's Super Bowl trophy.

"There's no place I'd rather play then St. Vincent, and there's no way I'd rather end it than having a state championship," Buchheit said.

To close the festivities, Winkler lived up to a pact he made with his team before the season and had his head shaved by the players.

"I'll trade this for that any day," Winkler said, pointing to the state trophy.

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