By Camden McFarland
From game one, the St. Paul Indians were driven to reach greatness and fight their way back to the playoffs after making it to sectionals in 2016.
Not only did this year’s Indians make it back to the playoffs, but they also defeated the defending state champions, Osborne, in sectionals and the number one ranked team, Burlingame, in the sub-state game.
The team’s impressive performance sent them to Newton to compete against the Hoxie Indians in the KSHSAA 8-Man Division I State Championship.
A quick glance at Hoxie’s roster revealed an intimidating size advantage, but this did not sway St. Paul’s hopes.
To open the game, Hoxie received the kickoff and quickly drove the field to score. However, St. Paul’s defense shut Hoxie down on their following possession and forced them to punt from the three-yard line.
St. Paul tried to answer offensively but could not find a way past Hoxie’s defense and was forced to punt on both possessions of the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Hoxie maintained offensive possession for nearly four minutes before scoring a second time to bring the score to 14-0.
St. Paul fumbled on the following drive and lost the ball, but took possession back on their own one-yard line after forcing Hoxie to fumble.
From 74 yards out, St. Paul finally found their way onto the scoreboard after Braven Born fired a pass over the heads of Hoxie’s defenders to Collin Carlson. This brought the score to 14-8 with 4:50 left in the first half.
Hoxie wasted no time in retaliating, and scored less than 30 seconds later.
After forcing St. Paul to punt, Hoxie scored again with 57 seconds left in the first half to bring the score to 28-8. St. Paul could not capitalize before the end of the first half.
In the second half, St. Paul struggled on both sides of the ball to keep up with Hoxie.
Hoxie scored twice more in the third quarter, and St. Paul was forced to punt on each possession.
The score was 42-8 entering the fourth quarter, and Hoxie continued to pull farther away.
Hoxie scored three minutes into the fourth, but St. Paul finally fired back at them offensively after Adam Albertini, filling in for Born at quarterback, threw a pass to Brenden Doherty who found his way into the end zone.
As the clock winded down, Hoxie scored one more time to bring the final score of the game to 54-14 and St. Paul was named the 2017 KSHSAA 8-Man Division I State Runner-Up.
The final loss brought St. Paul’s record this season to 11-2.
Regarding the team’s performance, Coach Keith Wiatrak said, “I could not be more proud of these boys. Many of them were just freshmen when I became the head coach and we won two games that year. They worked hard to become one of the best teams in the state.”