Hello Wildcat Universe after a one-week hiatus. Like foliage in the spring, recurring gall stones, and Richard Nixon after his gubernatorial loss to Pat Nixon in 1962....I'm back!
Although to be fair, spring foliage is the only thing on the above list we should really feel good about. (#GallstonesAreAllTooReal)
It's playoff first-round week on tap, and the Cat contest this Saturday comes as a result of one of the most incredible legal thefts in sports history. With less stealth and more success than the Committee to Re-Elect the President exhibited in 1972 in the infamous Watergate break-in scandal (#ContinuingPokesAtNixon), the Wildcats sneaked into Washington, Missouri, last Friday and stole--not only a win, but also the fourth place in Class 4, District 4, from the St. Francis Borgia Knights with a scintillating 46-35 win on the opposition's turf. With the clinical approach of Arsene Wenger and the enthusiasm of Jurgen Klopp (#PremierLeagueManagers), Westminster turned the game on its ear, continuing a one-week metamorphosis after its loss to Christian High of O'Fallon. There were plenty of balls in the air on both sides, but ultimately the Chad Briden-led Wildcats had enough muster remaining.
The offensive explosion from last week, featuring touchdown strikes to Dylan Conway and Logan Sells, along with ground game scores by Atlin Hall, gives hope to Wildcat Universe that the trend might go on unabated. Briden seems to be fully recovered from his collarbone smackdown in week 2 against St. Dominic and is creeping toward 1000 years for the season after playing only four games. The offensive line must bring discipline and desire to another week in the trenches to help Steve Webb spring loose and increase his 723-yard season total so far. With the Borgia defense--led by top tacklers Matthew Sinnot and Justin Heggeman--certain to attempt a full-scale Conway clampdown, look for wideout Grant Lavalle to be an needed target as the game wears on.
The Knights average nearly the same yardage running the ball as through the air. Jacob Unnerstall gives the Borgia offense a boost with 1254 passing yards to go with 13 TD passes. The Wildcat secondary will have their hands full with receivers Andy Rott (21 catches, 353 yards, 6 TDs) and possession receiver Louis Eckelkamp (24-293-2), among others. Rattling Unnerstall will be the job of the Wildcats' pass rush, which is due for a big game. On the ground game, the Knights can call on four players who have rushed for at least 200 yards for the season (#SpreadTheWealth). That list includes the previously mentioned Heggeman (81 carries, 419 yards, 3 TD) but also fills out with Jonathan Braun (42-300-2) and Chris Brodeur (50-232-3) along with Unnerstall's 218 yards off scrambles or the option. "Contain, contain, contain" will be the byword this week for Westminster, who cannot let the Knights beat them to the edges of the offensive box.
Aside from the obvious match-ups, kicking game, turnovers, and field position will count in droves. It took the Wildcats a whole half to shake the turnover bug last year in the regular season finale in a 37-20 win, but the playoffs were a whole new story in a 63-14 wipeout. That brings up another item...the mental game. The Wildcats have triumphed in eight straight affairs with Borgia, and that dominance must play in the minds of the Knights. Head coach Dale Gilderhaus remarked to journalists this week that "we hope the ninth time in the charm". (#BeautifulCliche)
Whether it is or not remains to be seen, but a Borgia-Westminster game is NEVER lackluster. This Saturday at 3 pm at Westminster, bring your passionate yells and $5 per head for admission. Another page in this intense rivalry turns this weekend.