With many of the teams in its district some three or four hours away, St. Vincent will see a familiar opponent, that’s only 45 minutes away on Friday.
St. Vincent (8-3) will face Crystal City (8-3) in the Class 1, District 2 championship game at St. Vincent High School for a chance to reach the final four.
It is the first time the program has reached the district championship under coach Tim Schumer.
“It means a lot to get this far,” Schumer said. “We always start out with the first goal being our conference because those are the games on our schedule. If we do a good job with our conference games that will put us in a good spot for the district seeding. All of that has come together.”
Schumer is not taking Crystal City lightly, despite the team’s prior success against the Hornets. St. Vincent has beaten Crystal City nine straight times dating back to 2012.
“They are a tough and physical team,” Schumer said of Crystal City. “They had a very good season last year and brought almost everybody back. They are a veteran team.”
The two teams were both in the I-55 Conference until 2019. The Hornets went 0-10 and left the conference to become independent. The program has had quite the turnaround in the past few years going 8-2 last season and another eight wins this season.
“Their coach has done a great job in turning that program around,” Schumer said.
Crystal City is primarily a triple option team with Caden Raftery leading the Hornets with 1,080 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. Kanden Bolton is second on the team with 937 yards and 12 touchdowns. Bolton is averaging nearly 13 yards per carry this season. The Hornets have five players over 200 yards rushing this year.
“They have big guys up front that are solid,” Schumer said. “You have to be very assignment sound and we have to make sure we are doing our job. If we miss an assignment that’s the guy that might burn us. We have been harping on that a lot in practice that all 11 players are doing what they are supposed to do. It does help that this will be our fifth team in a row that has run the triple option.”
St. Vincent has been playing its best football at the right time of the season. The Indians have won their last six games, and have not lost since Sept. 22 to Valle Catholic, after starting 2-3. The team had to replace 10 seniors from last year and Schumer said it took a few weeks to gel together as a team.
“Coming in we were a young team,” Schumer said. “We were a little inexperienced and we took those lessons we learned at the beginning of the year and used them to our advantage. We worked on the little things and it has turned out to be good for us.”
Those lessons are evident has they have won their two district games by a combined score of 98-12.
“Our defense has done a good job of keeping the opponent at bay and not giving up too many points on the scoreboard,” Schumer said. “Our offense has been able to take the opportunities given to them and put points on the board. They feed off one another.”
A big part of that offense has been the emergence of the running attack. Cruz Reitzel has been a key component of that with 17 touchdowns and quarterback Christian Schaaf has added nine rushing touchdowns as well to go with the consistent passing attack from the three-year starter.
“The rushing effort has been excellent this year,” Schumer said. “It’s helped us be a little bit more balanced this year, where in the past we may have leaned more on our passing game to open things up on the ground. Right now it seems like we can do both. We take what the defense gives and take advantage of those looks.”
The winner of the game will take on the winner of Marionville and Portageville. However, Schumer doesn’t want to talk about anything but Crystal City until such a time presents itself to look forward.
“This is playoff time,” Schumer said. “You train in the offseason and go to practices to come out here on the field and play as long as we can. It’s survive and advance. A district title would be huge, but more than that, it means we get to keep playing.”