WACO -- You can say what you will about athleticism, formations, innovative offenses, trick plays and all the other terms familiar to football fans. In Jake Wachsmuth's book, the most important factor in building a state champion is academics.
St. Paul running back Adam Hollenbach runs with the ball during the TAPPS Div III State Championship in Waco. photos by The Gonzales Cannon
Science, in particular.
"You've got to have chemistry. Every team has a different chemistry, and you have to build it," the St. Paul Cardinals coach said after his team won a wild 56-43 shootout with Frisco Legacy Christian to claim the TAPPS Division III state championship Friday at Waco's Floyd Casey Stadium. "These kids, they have that chemistry. Someone always steps up."
Running back Adam Hollenbach scored all eight of his team's touchdowns and the Cardinals pounded the ball for 405 rushing yards while using consecutive takeaways to open the second half to break away from the Eagles.
"We made some little adjustments at halftime," Wachsmuth said after his team went into the locker room leading 28-21 at intermission. "We told the kids that we needed to make a stop (to expand the lead). They responded, we came out and got two of them."
The Cardinal defense, which had gotten burned several times in the first half, forced a three-and-out on Legacy's opening drive of the second half, and then linebacker Martin Kennedy broke through to smother a punt attempt by Zach Snider. St. Paul took over at the Eagles' 18-yard line, and three plays later Hollenbach skated in from 12 yards out to extend St. Paul's lead to 42-21.
"I wasn't even supposed to block that kick," Kennedy said. "But I saw they were weak on that side, and they had a right-handed punter, so I went after it."
Two plays after Hollenbach's 12-yard TD, rangy freshman Marco Ynclan laid claim to an Adam Beck pass which skipped off the hands of intended receiver Hunter Wood and intercepted at the Legacy 43, setting up another short scoring drive which ended with a 23-yard Hollenbach dash to paydirt good for a 28-point lead which would prove to be insurmountable.
"Those turnovers were very important," senior linebacker Dylan Barton said. "We were kind of iffy in the first half with them, but we were able to get out there in the third quarter and stop them and get a cushion."
"Those were humongeous plays for us," Hollenbach said.
The Cardinals established their tempo on the game's opening drive, taking the opening kickoff and marching 75 yards in 14 plays, chewing seven minutes off the clock. Hollenbach capped the march with a 4-yard scoring run.
"We did a good job of mixing it up on that drive," Kennedy said. "The linemen were fantastic, they were kicking people two-three yards back."
St. Paul quarterback Dakota Kresta passes the ball during the TAPPS Div III State Championship in Waco.
Legacy came right back to tie the contest, however. A 25-yard gain by Ovie Erevbu and a facemasking penalty chewed up two big chunks of ground, and Beck capped the 67-yard, four- play march with a 9-yard scoring pass to Hunter Wood.
St. Paul went right back to its bread and butter, grinding 52 yards in seven plays and eating another hefty chunk of clock before Hollenbach plowed in from eight yards away to make it 14-7.
"We just plugged away, and plugged away," Wachsmuth said. "Adam may have been the guy who punched it in so much tonight, but you look at what we've got, on any other team that guy would be Martin, tonight he was the one opening the holes."
The St. Paul defense held on the next drive and forced a punt, and the Cardinals were quick to capitalize on the opportunity. Hollenbach burst through a crowd in the center of the line and found himself with no one between him and the goal line, racing 68 yards to make it a 21-7 game.
The Eagles, however, had some lightning of their own. Two Beck passes on their next drive were good for 36 yards, then Erevbu shed two tackles at the line and dashed 31 yards for a score to cut the St. Paul lead to 21-14.
Kennedy did everything except score on St. Paul's next drive. After a holding call set the Cards back to their 19, he broke loose for a 31-yard dash to midfield. After a procedure call, Kennedy gathered in a play-action pass from Dakota Kresta which covered 51 yards, with a very determined effort by Erevbu keeping him out of the end zone. Hollenbach scored on the next play, however, to run the lead to 28-14.
The Eagles struck right back on their next play from scrimmage when Beck found a wide-open Wood behind the safety and the two teamed on a 70-yard TD pass.
St. Paul carried a 14-point cushion into halftime, however, by rolling 60 yards in 11 plays. Hollenbach's 9-yard TD run staked them to a 35-21 lead.
After Ynclan's pick led to a 49-21 lead, the Eagles roared back and madae a game of it. Beck hit Wood with a 41-yard completion midway through the third period, then dashed the final 29 yards himself to score once. A two-point conversion play made it a 49-29 game.
An onside kick recovery by Tom Mask got the ball back for Legacy, and Beck and Wood connected for another 35-yarder before Erevbu punched it in from a yard away to make the score 49-36.
But St. Paul made it a three-TD affair with another long march on its next possession. This time the Cardinals went 67 yards in eight plays, with a key 36-yard completion from Kresta to Barton which the latter wrestled away from Wood. Hollenbach punched it in from five yards away to make it a 56-36 game with 8:40 to play.
Legacy came back to score on another 18-yard run by Erevbu, but once the Cardinals got the ball back, they didn't let go. St. Paul ran the final 5:44 off the clock after a squib kick set them up at midfield.
For the Cardinal seniors, the victory culminated a lot of long days and hard work.
"You get those days where it's hot, you're running sprints and you say 'I don't want to do this,'" Kresta said. "This is what it's for. I realize now all those long days at practice are to make champions."
"This feels a whole lot better than the (2010 championship)," Barton said. "This one is special."
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GAME SUMMARY: 2012 TAPPS Division III State Championship Shiner St. Paul 56, Frisco Legacy Christian 43 SCORING SUMMARY: Shiner St. Paul 7 28 14 7 -- 56 Frisco Legacy Christian 7 14 15 7 -- 43 SCORING DETAILS: First Quarter SP--Adam Hollenbach 4 run (Dakota Kresta Kick) 5:00 Scoring Drive: 14 plays, 75 yards, TOP: 7:00 LC--Hunter Wood 9 pass from Adam Beck (Cameron Thrash kick) 3:10 Drive: 5 plays, 63 yards, 1:50 Second Quarter SP--Hollenbach 8 run (D. Kresta Kick) 11:22 Drive: 7 plays, 52 yards, 3:48 SP--Hollenbach 68 run (D. Kresta kick) 8:33 Drive: 3 plays, 74 yards, 1:10 LC--Ovie Urevbu 31 run (C. Thrash kick) 7:26 Drive: 3 plays, 67 yards, 1:07 SP--Hollenbach 4 run (D. Kresta kick) 5:39 Drive: 4 plays, 71 yards, 1:47 LC--Wood 70 pass from Beck (C. Thrash kick) 5:25 Drive: 1 play, 70 yards, 0:14 SP--Hollenbach 9 run (D. Kresta kick) 0:13 Drive: 11 plays, 60 yards, 5:12 Third Quarter SP--Hollenbach 12 run (D. Kresta kick) 9:35 Drive: 3 plays, 18 yards, 1:25 following blocked punt by Martin Kennedy SP--Hollenbach 23 run (D. Kresta kick) 8:18 Drive: 3 plays, 43 yards, 0:53 following interception by Marco Ynclan LC--Beck 29 run (Caleb Palmer pass from Beck) 5:25 Drive: 2 plays, 70 yards, 0:35 LC--Urevbu 1 run (C. Thrash kick) 1:50 Drive: 3 plays, 34 yards, 1:12 following onside kick recovery by Tom Mask Fourth Quarter SP--Hollenbach 5 run (D. Kresta kick) 8:40 Drive: 8 plays, 67 yards, 5:10 LC--Urevbu 18 run (C. Thrash kick) 5:44 Drive: 7 plays, 78 yards, 2:56 TEAM STATISTICS: Legacy StPaul First Downs 15 19 Rushes-Yards 21-152 59-405 Passing Yards 276 113 Passes 12-15-1 4-6-0 Punts 2-23.5 1-29 Penalties-Yards 2-15 6-50 Fumbles-Lost 1-1 0-0 INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS: Legacy Christian Rushing Att Yds TD Ovie Urevbu 13 105 3 Adam Beck 8 47 1 Passing Cpl Att Yds TD Int Adam Beck 12 15 276 2 1 Receiving Rec Yds TD Hunter Wood 8 209 2 Bryan Marino 2 35 0 Zach Snider 1 22 0 Ovie Erevbu 1 20 0 St. Paul Rushing Att Yds TD Adam Hollenbach 42 309 8 Martin Kennedy 7 58 0 Dakota Kresta 9 36 0 Mitchell McElroy 1 2 0 Passing Cpl Att Yds TD Int Dakota Kresta 4 6 113 0 0 Receiving Rec Yds TD Dylan Barton 3 62 0 Martin Kennedy 1 51 0