No. 7 Bulldogs rally for first title, return to playoffs

The South Callaway Bulldogs scrambled furiously for a second-half comeback, allowing them to survive a shootout.

Sophomore quarterback Jason Kimminau threw two touchdown passes and ran for a pair of scores in the second half Thursday night, spurring No. 7 South Callaway to a 37-28 win over Hermann in a Class 2, District 9 matchup.

The Bulldogs (9-1, 3-0 District 9) — who rallied from a 20-8 halftime deficit — claimed their first-ever district championship and locked up a return to the state playoffs for a third straight year.

In a season of numerous firsts, South Callaway will experience another one next Wednesday night when it hosts its first playoff game. However, the Bulldogs will have to wait until tonight to learn their opponent — which will likely be the loser of the District 10 matchup between Clopton-Elsberry and Mark Twain.

Hermann ended its season at 3-7 overall and 1-2 in District 9. Senior quarterback Lucas Budnik threw four touchdown passes to senior wide receiver Trey Thomas as the Bearcats almost ruined South Callaway’s title and playoff prospects.

Faced with a 12-point deficit coming out of halftime, the Bulldogs’ defense forced a pair of third-quarter turnovers that eventually resulted in scores to put South Callaway in front to stay.

The Bulldogs recovered a fumble at their own 47-yard line on Hermann’s first possession to start the quarter. Kimminau then converted the miscue into points when he bulled his way into the end zone from 1 yard out on fourth-and-goal with 6 minutes, 15 seconds left in the quarter. He added the extra point to bring South Callaway within 20-15.

After the two teams swapped turnovers, senior defensive back Will Brandt intercepted a Budnik pass to give the Bulldogs possession at the Bearcats’ 25. On the very next play, Brandt — from his wide receiver spot — gathered in a touchdown pass from Kimminau with 3:20 to go in the period.

South Callaway tacked on the two-point conversion on a pass play, giving them a three-point lead they would not relinquish.

The Bulldogs stretched their lead to 30-20 when Kimminau connected with junior tailback Konrad Kemper on a 60-yard catch-and-run for a score with 10:41 remaining in the game.

Just as South Callaway appeared poised to pull away, Budnik hit Thomas on a 64-yard touchdown pass with 9:57 to play. Hermann ran in the two-point conversion to get back within two points.

However, Kimminau gave the Bulldogs some room to relax again when he raced 39 yards for a score with 7:34 remaining. With Kimminau’s extra point, South Callaway’s lead bloomed to nine points.

After the Bearcats turned the ball over on downs on their next two possessions, the Bulldogs were able to run out the clock and begin their celebration.

The possibility of any festivities for South Callaway seemed to be fading after the first 24 minutes Thursday night.

Hermann opened up a 12-0 first-quarter lead when Budnik found Thomas on touchdown passes covering 12 and 54 yards.

The Bulldogs leaned on some trickery on the initial play of the second quarter to produce their first points. Brandt faked a punt and completed a pass to junior tailback Hunter Leeper, who finished off a 48-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown.

However, Budnik countered with a 34-yard touchdown pass to Thomas on the Bearcats’ next possession. Junior wide receiver Justin Wurtz ran in the two-point conversion to make it 20-8, and the score remained that way until halftime.

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