Victory in their Blood | Valle Catholic High School wins 10th state football championship
The people of Ste. Genevieve are not yet ready to come down to earth after the success of Valle Catholic High School's sports teams, including the Warriors' thrilling 22-21 overtime victory in the Class 1 state football championship Nov. 26.
The win against Westran High School at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis is the school's 10th in football. Quarterback Alex Stoll hit Jared Bruns for a two-point conversion in overtime for the game winner. Just moments earlier, Stoll threw a 23-yard pass to Bruns for a touchdown to start erasing a seven-point deficit. Stoll ran for 171 yards and completed 23 of 35 passes for 245 yards, getting the offense to respond after star running back Luke Uding, who scored more than 30 touchdowns this year, left the game with a left knee injury. Both Stoll and Uding are seniors.
"It's been good for the whole town," said Valle principal Sara Menard. "The community is unbelievably supportive. We have a great fan base."
The fans especially took to this group of players. "The kids are so likable," Menard said. "Everybody is on their side and wants them to succeed."
A crowd welcomed the state champs home to Ste. Genevieve and team members gathered under the scoreboard at Father John Dempsey Field with the championship medals for a photo with score of the game displayed proudly.
Coach Judd Naeger was the starting quarterback when Valle won its last football title in 1995. He said sharing with his team what he felt as a player had a special meaning. The win also was significant because Valle lost last year to Penney 21-17 in the championship game. Penney this year moved up to Class 2 and beat a powerful Maplewood-Richmond Heights team 34-13.
Naeger said the team started preparing for the season as soon as last season ended. "The kids set a goal. They worked very, very hard each day in order to reach that goal."
Coaches and players talked often about being a family "and to play for each other every game," Naeger said. "That was the key — when we saw some adversity the kids were able to stick together, and were able to call on each other's strengths."
Valle averaged nearly 50 points a game while allowing fewer than 9 this year. Both offense and defense played well all year, Naeger said. "It's a lot of the same kids (on offense and defense). At the Class 1 level most kids go both ways."
One of the team's slogans during the year was "all in," he said, and when the decision was made to go for the two-point conversion "everybody was on the same page. They knew they had worked hard all year and win or lose they were going to be able to look themselves in the mirror. That's one thing we try to stress — as long as you work hard and have a strong faith in God, you are going to be able to overcome anything."
Westran, which had handed Valle its only loss of the season earlier and came into the game undefeated, scored first on a 49-yard pass. Valle answered with a touchdown by Stoll on a 65-yard run, but Westran scored again on a one-yard run before halftime. Valle tied the score in the fourth quarter on a one-yard run by Stoll, and the teams headed into overtime.
Westran scored on its first drive on a 14-yard run, but Valle had one more chance, scoring on the pass to Bruns. That is when the decision was made to go for two points instead of a point-after kick, resulting in the Valle victory.
Valle had 24 first downs to Westran's 10 and compiled 419 yards on offense to Westran's 192. Zachary Weiler led the team in receiving with 10 catches for 86 yards. A field-goal attempt by Valle with 11 seconds left in the game was blocked.
Ste. Genevieve is known as a blue-collar, hard-working community, said Menard, the Valle principal. She noted that the public school students also are known for working hard and enjoying success.
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