On the surface, Valle Catholic’s 46-16 win at Kennett Friday night might seem like another typical dominating performance from the undefeated Warriors, who managed their third consecutive undefeated regular season.
But it was much more than that, considering Head Coach Judd Naeger and his crew played without one of the top running backs in the state in Bryce Giesler, and some other players on the team were feeling under the weather as well. Despite not having their regular starter at running back in this one, the Warriors offensive line is so talented and infallible that they can create holes for anyone. And Tim Okenfuss, averaging over 12 yards per carry, is no slouch.
Noah Elbert, Jacob Elbert, Jacob Calbreath, Jackson Fowler and Isaac Viox continued to do what they do week in and week out, and made the day easy for quarterback Chase Fallert and wide receiver Sam Drury. Those two connected on not one, not two, not even three, but four scoring passes in the game.
It was not as if the ground game was non-existent though. Junior running Alex Viox found the end zone twice on a pair of short touchdown runs and Okenfuss was a beast as in his own right.
In fact, it was Viox who got the Warriors’ scoring started with a three-yard run about three and-a-half minutes into the game. Will Kuehn’s extra point was blocked, and the score remained 6-0.
Then the Fallert to Drury aerial display took center stage. Chase rolled to his right and found Sam racing toward the sideline from 34 yards out in the final seconds of the first quarter to make the score 12-0 after these two could not hook-up on the two-point attempt.
But they were back on the same page at the 9:30 mark of the second quarter on a 29-yard scoring strike near the left sideline. This time Fallert’s two-point attempt failed to connect with Carson Tucker to keep the score at 18-0.
Then Viox grabbed the spotlight again with another three-yard TD run at the 5:41 mark. Kuehn booted the PAT to make the score 25-0. Viox now has four touchdowns this season in just 16 attempts.
Kennett showed signs of life just under three minutes later when quarterback Tanner Pierce scored on a one-yard run. The successful two-point conversion made it 25-8.
But if the hosts from the Bootheel had designs on making this a game, Valle quickly put those notions to rest before halftime.
Fallert found Drury for a third time at the 2:30 mark. This time it was a 30-yard pass across the middle in which Drury had to shake off a couple of Indian defenders. The extra point failed, so it was 31-8.
The Warriors found the end zone one more time in the second quarter when Fallert found Drury from four yards out for the fourth and final time at the 1:15 mark. Then for good measure, they did it again for the two-point conversion to make it a 39-8 lead at halftime. Drury finished with five catches for 136 yards. So, he had only one reception that did not result in a touchdown. But that illustrates Drury’s big-play ability. He now has 30 receptions this season and ten of them have resulted in scores.
The 39-point first half also means Valle finished the regular season averaging 40.7 ppg in the first two quarters. The full game is average is a rather robust 55.7 ppg.
Valle added its final score of the night in the third quarter when Okenfuss scored his ninth rushing touchdown of the season from a yard out. Kuehn’s extra point made it 46-8.
It stayed that way until 1:20 remaining in the game, when Brooks Nigut caught a 24-yard touchdown pass and the two-point conversion made the final score 46-16.
The Warriors ran only 36 plays all day. Twenty-six rushes and ten passes, but it was remarkably balanced. While the 168 rushing yards was a little over half of their previous average of 316 per game, it was still an impressive total considering they played without the ultra-talented Giesler, who has rushed for over 1,000 yards on the season. The 165 yards through the air was just about on par with their seasonal average.
The running back by-committee method meant the quarterback Fallert led the way with 64 yards. Seven different players were credited with carries.
Fallert finished the game seven out of ten in the passing department. He is completing 62 percent of his passes on the season with 21 touchdowns and just four interceptions.
It was also a balanced effort on the defensive side. Tucker and Isaac Viox each recorded a team-high eight total tackles. Okenfuss had one of the team’s three sacks giving Tim 11.5 on the season. He also had a team-high three tackles for loss, giving him a whopping 31 on the season. He is far from the only Warrior who seems to live in the opponent’s backfield. The team averages more than 15 tackles behind the line of scrimmage per game.
Valle will get next week off after earning a bye in the opening round of Class 3, District 1 play as the top seed. The Warriors could see Kennett again in the second round of districts. The Indians are the fourth seed and will host number five seed Potosi next Friday, October 28th with the winner earning a trip to Father John Dempsey Field in Ste. Genevieve on November 4th.
The Warriors will be searching for their first district title since moving up to Class 3 in 2020.