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Saturday, November 7th, 2009

St. Henry beats top seed in Region 20

By Gary R. Rasberry

St. Henry's Neil Schwieterman, 8, tries to avoid a Richwood North Union tackler. . .

RICHWOOD - St. Henry had its defense rolling from the opening kickoff.
The offense took a little bit longer, but rolled as well.
The Redskins got three touchdown catches from Victor Fortkamp and held the Wildcats to less than 135 yards of total offense to pull away for a 28-3 win in the first round of the Division V state playoffs at North Union High School on Friday night.
St. Henry, the eighth-seed of Region 20, goes to 8-3 on the season and will face 11-0 West Liberty-Salem next Friday at a site to be announced on Sunday. The Tigers beat West Jefferson 3-0 in West Liberty.
The top-seeded Wildcats, making their first-ever state playoff appearance, ends their season at 10-1.
North Union entered the game averaging over 335 yards of offense, most of it coming on the ground. St. Henry, running out of a 4-4 defensive front, shut down most aspects of the Wildcats' running game, especially on the sweep. The Wildcats had just one running play of more than 10 yards and were held to just 26 yards rushing in the first half.
"I thought we had a very good matchup: our front four against their offensive line," said St. Henry coach Jeff Starkey. "Our kids played a whale of a ballgame on that side of the ball. They made some plays and kept giving our offense lots of possessions and kept them out of the end zone."
"They sit in a 4-4 front, which was what we seen on tape," said North Union coach Jesse Spencer. "They didn't do anything to confuse us mentally. I don't think we did a great job of sustaining blocks. Their kids did a great job flying to the football and getting off the blocks. Tonight it looked like they played a step faster and played a little bit stronger than we did."
It took the Redskins some time to get the offense cranked up, thanks to a strong Wildcat defense. The first four possessions for St. Henry went turnover on downs, punt, interception and punt.
It was on the fifth series where things began to work well for the Redskins. Freshman quarterback Kyle Stahl began to hook up with 6-7 senior Victor Fortkamp, connecting three times on the drive, with the final connection going for 20 yards and the touchdown. Fortkamp's grab came after Brad Stahl - making his return to the Redskins' lineup after injury, but starting the night at receiver - tipped the ball into Fortkamp's waiting hands at the 3:18 mark of the second quarter.
North Union punted on its next two series, with the second coming deep in Wildcat territory. Kyle Stahl again hooked up with Fortkamp for most of the drive, hitting Fortkamp for a 25-yard touchdown with no time left in the half to make it 14-0 after Jon Speck's PAT kick.
"They made some plays, that's what a 10-0 team will do," Starkey said of the North Union defense. "We had some opportunities in the red zone and turned the ball over (St. Henry had three turnovers). We made some plays, too. That's what you have to do at this point in the year."
If the late score took the wind out of North Union's sails, the start of the third quarter ripped the mast off the boat.
North Union lost 10 yards on three plays and punted the ball away. Punter-quarterback Evan Jamison's boot went back to the Redskin 34, where Neil Schwieterman snagged it and looked for room to run. The Redskins' special-teams unit opened a hole near the sidelines, allowing Schwieterman to scamper 66 yards for his second punt return-touchdown of the season to make it 21-0.
"We talked about that all week. Not that their cover unit was bad, but we knew what kind of environment we were going to play in," said Starkey. "We knew how a return could really change the momentum."
Fortkamp capped off his big night with his third touchdown reception in the fourth quarter. This time it was Brad Stahl who fired the ball, connecting on a 25-yard score midway through the fourth quarter before the starters began coming off the field for the rest of the night.
Fortkamp finished the night with 116 yards on five receptions.
"Victor's a playmaker and difference-maker for us," said Starkey. "He made some great plays. That's what he's done for us the last two years."
Kyle Stahl finished the night 13-of-21 for 185 yards passing and two scores. Big brother Brad threw for 65 yards and the other score.
"We thought we could take some shots downfield," said Starkey. "You can only do that if you can protect long enough to do it."
Zach Fishbaugh finished with 53 yards rushing to lead St. Henry, but also came up big on the screen pass, snagging six balls for 62 yards.
The Wildcats finished with 133 yards of total offense. Jamison was 6-for-22 for 43 yards with two interceptions, both coming from the Redskins' Dylan Schwieterman. Warren Shields rushed for 53 yards.
"We can talk about key points in the game, key things that happened against us. ... But look, bottom line, hats off to St. Henry. They were flat out better than us in every aspect of the game," said Miller. "They were better than us up front, better at the skill positions, better than us on special teams. The way they played, they deserved to win the game."
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