A New Chapter: St. Paul, Sacred Heart duke it out for state football title
It isn’t often a team plays its arch-rival in the playoffs — and even rarer for two rivals to play in a state championship game.
The St. Paul and Sacred Heart football teams will have the opportunity to add an especially exciting chapter to their storied rivalry this weekend.
The gridders from the two regional Catholic schools, bitter rivals on the field but staunch friends off it, will meet in the TAPPS Division IV State championship game at 6 p.m. Saturday at Wildcat Stadium in Temple.
“Rivals almost never play each other in the playoffs, let alone the state championship game,” said first-year Cardinal head coach Paul Johnston.
“It is just like playing in district for the district title, only you are now playing for a state title, so more is at stake,” Sacred Heart coach Pat Henke said. “We have never played a rival for the state title.”
“The fans are going to be excited about the two schools playing each other. That says something about the type of football played by both schools.”
The teams have developed a penchant for facing one another in key contests — most often with the district title at stake. This time it is for more than just bragging rights as the winner will walk away with the TAPPS Division IV State Championship.
This is Johnston’s first time to coach a team in the state title game
“This is a big, big rivalry,” Johnston said. “More is at stake when a state title is on the line.”
Johnson said the Cardinal offense needs to execute their game plan as flawlessly as they can.
“We have to avoid mistakes. We must not turn the ball over and we must not have costly penalties,” he said.
The Cardinals defense will have to deal with the keep-it-on-the ground offense they saw when the played the Indians back on Oct. 29 — when they scored an upset 14-12 win.
“We have to prevent Sacred Heart from making big plays. We have to tackle their backs well and we have to force some turnovers,” Johnston said.
He said it speaks volumes for the Cardinal players having made the state championship game with a new coach and a new system.
“I give the credit to our kids,” Johnston said. “Our kids are like sponges. They absorbed all of the new things I brought. I am very proud of them. They have come a long way.”
Last season, under previous head coach Jake Wachsmuth, the Cardinals ran off 14 straight wins, defeating Colleyville Covenant Christian for the title.
Sacred Heart’s last appearance in the TAPPS DIV title game was 2007, where they beat Fort Worth Calvary.
“It is an honor to play in the state title game,” Henke said.
He said the biggest concern for the Indians will be hanging on to the ball. Last week against Brazos Christian, Sacred Heart had five turnovers on offense.
“We had five turnovers and still won. We cannot have five turnovers and expect to win in the state title game,” he said. “We must do a better job of protecting the football.”
Brazos Christian managed to produce some big plays on offense, another thing Sacred Heart cannot allow against the Cardinals.
“We must play sound and prevent St. Paul from making big plays,” Henke said. “Both our offense and defense must consider every play as important. You just do not know when a play will be a crucial one or not.”