Valle Catholic uses early lead to win its 14th state championship

Sid Hastings
Related Articles: 

Valle Catholic High School used turnovers to jump out to an early lead, then relied on a balanced attack for a 61-36 victory over Penney in a Class 1 state championship game Nov. 28 at the Edward Jones Dome in Downtown St. Louis.

The win was Valle’s 45th in a row and third straight state title. Its last defeat came three years ago in the championship game of the Show-Me Bowl against Penney, 60-24. Valle has 14 state titles in football, the most of any high school in Missouri, surpassing Webb City by one.

Valle had 327 yards rushing and 131 yards passing and converted on six of nine third downs and its only fourth-down attempt. Quarterback Connor Basler ran for 157 yards and Nicholas Oberle ran for 143 yards.

Judd Naeger, Valle’s head coach, said Penney has outstanding athletes who played hard. Valle had “a championship week of practice,” that prepared the players well, he noted. He thanked Ste. Genevieve High School for the use of its artificial turf one day due to wet conditions on Valle’s field.

Basler, a senior, said he’s played with “a great group of guys” throughout his high school career, and to go out on top as a senior means a lot to him. His coach added that the players are “just an outstanding group to be around.”

Valle jumped out to a lead on an interception by Coleman Keeley and a 30-yard return for a touchdown. Just the second play of the game, Penney quarterback Jaran Richman rushed a pass after he was forced out of the pocket by Valle’s pass rush. Valle scored another touchdown on an 8-yard run by Basler, capping a 70-yard drive using an effective ground game. Another score came on a 10-yard pass from Basler to Tristan Rollhaus after a fumble recovery by Carl Loida at the Penney 19 yardline.

His team hadn’t relied on its running game in the weeks leading up to the finals, Naeger said, but went back to it in the finals. Lineman Matthew Skaggs said that being able to run the ball early on in the game was a confidence booster, especially knowing that the backfield has so much talent.

Penney got its passing game in gear, with leaping catches by Telly Harper and a 5-yard touchdown to Latroy Harper. Basler scored on a 1-yard run and the team increased its lead on an interception by Garrett Jaegers, who ran it in 48 yards for the score. Valle had its passing game working on the next series, with Matthew Luttrell gaining ground on a couple passes and Cole Wood scoring on a 13-yard pass from Basler.

Penney scored on a 5-yard run by Timothy East after a 43-yard punt return. Valle returned to the ground game, with Oberle scoring on a 3-yard run after a 38-yard run earlier in the drive, and the half ended with a 47-14 lead.

Valle opened the second half with a touchdown on a 26-yard pass from Basler to Wood. Penney drove to the 1-yard line on a pass to Derek Dixon and, after penalties and several plays, Korby Ford scored on a 2-yard run. Valle stayed on the ground and scored on a 1-yard run by Tristan Huck. Penney came back again, thanks to a tough catch by Telly Harper and a 4-yard touchdown run by Latroy Harper and another athletic catch and run by Latroy Harper for an 80-yard touchdown.

Valle’s team respected its opponent despite having a big lead, a fact that Penney coach Caleb Obert noted. Naeger said sportsmanship is something he enjoys about high school sports, pointing to some of the other playoff teams as well where the players go full force and then stop to help their opponents up. “We don’t expect anything but that from our kids,” he said, noting the sport’s role in building self-esteem, win or lose.

Valle, 15-0, won last year’s Class 1 championship 49-25 against Westran. This year, the team defeated Marceline 16-13 in the semifinals, breaking a 13-13 tie with 45 seconds left in the game on a Devon Kutz 28-yard field goal. Basler threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Wood and a 29-yard TD pass to Jaegers. He threw for 244 yards and ran for 111. Valle earlier defeated Louisiana 70-0, St. Vincent 63-7, Mark Twain 44-0 and Thayer 17-10 in the playoffs.

No votes yet