The Shiner St. Paul Cardinals repeated as TAPPS state champs after running to a 49-34 win over the Grace Prep Lions. The Cardinals captured their sixth overall state title, this year in Division IV after winning the Division III championship last season over Cedar Hill Trinity Christian. The Cardinals used a very methodical and tiresome rushing attack to control the clock and the game, rushing 63 times for 457 yards. St. Paul did not complete a pass in the contest.
The offensive attack for the Cardinals was led by running back, Conor Kresta. The junior ran for 311 yards on 40 carries, getting 214 yards in the second half, while adding 5 touchdowns. After Grace Prep opened the game with a 5-play, 75 yard drive, capped by a 4-yard TD run by Brendan Walters, Kresta and the Cardinals went to work. The Cardinals went 16 plays (15 run, 1 pass) and took more than 9 minutes off the clock before Kresta scored on a 13 yard run.
On the ensuing drive, Grace Prep committed their first of three turnovers when Walters fumbled at the 47 yard line. St. Paul converted the turnover into points 5 plays later when Joseph Natal ran 36 yards for a score to take a 14-7 lead. The Lions would answer immediately. Matthew Tucker returned the short kickoff to the 39 yard line before a pass interference call moved the ball to the St. Paul 46. Taking advantage of the short field, Grace Prep scored 3 plays later on a 14-yard run by QB Jeremiah Tucker to tie the score at 14, taking just 1:17 off the clock.
St. Paul had an answer, one that lasted 7 minutes and ended with another score by Kresta. Grace Prep took over with 1:46 remaining in the half and would score on a 24-yard TD pass to Matthew Tucker with under a minute on the clock. St. Paul started their last drive of the first half at the 16 yard line and were forced to punt after being stuffed by the Lions’ defense and subject to a full slate of timeouts for Grace Prep. After the punt, Grace Prep’s Jeremiah Tucker passed to Walters for 49 yards before the two hooked up again on a 10-yard scoring strike with less than a second remaining in the half. Grace Prep went to the break with a 27-21 lead after a blocked extra point.
After the back-and-forth first half, St. Paul took control in the second half, scoring on three of their four offensive drives in addition to a defensive touchdown. Kresta scored on runs of 53, 5, and 4 yards before the Cardinals put the game away. With an 8-point lead and a potent Grace Prep offense taking the field, Shiner St. Paul head coach Jake Wachsmuth was hoping the Cardinals could get “just one stop.” The Cardinals got the stop they needed in a big way. With less than a minute remaining in the game, junior Jacob Darilek sacked Grace Prep quarterback Jeremiah Tucker causing a fumble. The Cardinals’ Joseph Natal scooped up the loose ball and ran 52 yards, giving St. Paul a 49-34 lead to put the game out of reach.
The Cardinals struggled with turnovers early in the season, having 4 and 5 turnovers in a few games. St. Paul graduated 10 seniors, all starters, from a year ago so the team had to grow up fast. Wachsmuth said the team “kept believing and kept plugging away until it worked for us.” And it worked in a big way Friday afternoon as the Cardinals were +3 in turnovers which ended up being the difference in the game.
Shiner St. Paul finishes the season at 11-3 (5-1 district) and Grace Prep finishes at 9-5 (3-2 district).
– Shiner St. Paul captains for the game were Ryan Bell, Alex Hull, Joshua Haynes, and Greg Patek.
– Grace Prep captains were Brendan Walters, Jeremiah Tucker, Jay Sedwick, and Colin Toulouse.
– St. Paul is 6-3 in state title games, winning in 1992, 1997, 2010, 2012, 2015, and 2016.
GRACEPREP – Brendan Walters 4 yard run (XP Jay Sedwick)
STPAUL – Conor Kresta 12 yard run (XP Frank Benes)
STPAUL – Joseph Natal 36 yard run (XP Frank Benes)
GRACE PREP – Jeremiah Tucker – 14 yard run (XP Jay Sedwick)
STPAUL – Conor Kresta 1 yard run (XP Frank Benes)
GRACE PREP – Matthew Tucker 24 yard pass from Jeremiah Tucker (XP Jay Sedwick)
GRACE PREP – Brendan Walters 10 yard pass from Jeremiah Tucker (XP blocked)
STPAUL – Conor Kresta 53 yard run (XP Frank Benes)
GRACEPREP – Matthew Tucker 14 yard pass from Jeremiah Tucker (XP Jay Sedwick)
STPAUL – Conor Kresta 5 yard run (XP Frank Benes)
STPAUL – Conor Kresta 4 yard run (XP Frank Benes)
STPAUL – Joseph Natal 52 yard fumble return (XP Frank Benes)
PASSING – J. Tucker (20/25 – 334 yds – 3 TD); J. Sedwick (1/1 – 20 yds)
RUSHING – J. Tucker (12 carries, 60 yds, 1 TD); B. Walters (2, 2 yds, 1 TD)
RECEIVING – M. Tucker (6 rec, 83 yds, 2 TD); C.T. Hawkins (5 rec, 73 yds); B. Walters (3 rec, 72 yds, 1 TD); J. Sedwick (5 rec, 69 yds); J. Davis (3 rec, 57 yds)
SHINER ST PAUL
PASSING – A. Barton (0/5, 0 yds)
RUSHING (63/457) – C. Kresta (40 carries, 312 yds, 5 TD); A. Barton (14 carries, 73 yds); J. Natal (6 carries, 50 yds, 1 TD); R. Malinovsky (3 carries, 22 yds)