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No. 7 Bulldogs covet first title, return to postseason

Photo by Stephanie Backus.

South Callaway head coach Tim Rulo isn’t allowing any anxiety to creep in just because there are no assurances.

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Rulo’s Bulldogs (8-1) are the only team in Class 2, District 9 to feature a 2-0 mark. Still, South Callaway needs a victory tonight at Hermann (3-6, 1-1) to acquire its first-ever district title and nail down a return to the state playoffs for a third straight year. Kickoff is at 7.

Blair Oaks (7-2, 1-1) — which was edged by the Bulldogs 7-6 at Wardsville in the district opener Oct. 15 — hosts Montgomery County (3-6, 0-2) in tonight’s other District 9 game.

A loss by South Callaway, which moved up three places to No. 7 in this week’s state rankings released Wednesday, could result in a case of double-jeopardy involving scenarios decided by the playoffs’ point system.

“We know where we stand,” Rulo said Monday night. “In my mind, you’ve just got to win. You’re not going to sit there and worry about points, or anything like that. You’ve just got to go and take care of business.

“I’m excited for that opportunity. Once again, we’ll get to see how our guys respond. I think they have that in them.”

Against Hermann tonight, the Bulldogs’ defense will confront a no-huddle, spread offense for a second consecutive week. South Callaway surrendered just one score, came up with three turnovers and recorded two sacks in last week’s 40-15 win over Montgomery County at Mokane.

Junior linebacker Konrad Kemper also supplied a defensive score for the Bulldogs when he intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter and ran it back 73 yards for a touchdown.

The Bearcats’ only points in last week’s 46-6 loss to Blair Oaks at Hermann came on a 30-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Lucas Budnik to junior wide receiver Justin Wurtz in the third quarter.

Budnik threw for 193 yards, but completed just 13-of-31 passes and was picked off three times. Wurtz topped the Bearcats with five catches for 125 yards. As a team, Hermann was limited to just 35 yards rushing on 20 carries.

“They get the ball out quickly, they fire the ball around really fast,” Rulo said. “… They use their screen game as a secondary running game.”

South Callaway yielded 219 total yards last week, but Montgomery County managed just 54 yards from its running game.

“With any spread team, you’ve got to stop the run first,” Rulo said. “Stopping the pass is hard, it’s more of a swarming, punishing, pinning and corralling the pass, not giving up big plays and making them earn those yards all the way down the field.”

The Bulldogs rediscovered their groove on the ground last week, rushing for 238 yards as a team. Junior tailback T.J. Buchholz led the way with a game-high 84 yards on only nine carries and supplied touchdown runs of 4 and 14 yards.

Senior tailback Bryan Lechner added 63 yards in seven attempts and sophomore quarterback Jason Kimminau scored on a 14-yard run.

Kimminau was also sharp in South Callaway’s passing game, going 8-of-12 for 92 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Both of his touchdown passes went to senior wide receiver Will Brandt for 19 and 30 yards.

Brandt ended up with six catches for 72 yards.

Most significantly, the Bulldogs turned the ball over just once last week — albeit a 93-yard fumble return for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

“It just shows you the difference when you don’t turn the ball over,” Rulo said. “Even if you have to punt, at least you’re having the ability to change the field. Turnovers are just so difficult to manage, even mentally.”

Rulo is curious to watch the Bearcats’ 4-3 alignment defend South Callaway’s triple-option attack.

“That’s the thing you’ve got to see how they’re going to stop first,” Rulo said. “From there, you’ll kind of figure out everything else.”

• • • • •

•Notes: Members of the South Callaway community are going to meet at 3:30 p.m. today at the Katy Trail access at Mokane to help send the Bulldogs off to Hermann.

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