Dec. 4—WACO — A fourth-down pass flew just out of the reach of its intended receiver in the end zone, a microcosm of Sacred Heart's state title bid Friday night.
The Tigers fell to reigning champions Shiner St. Paul 36-8 at Waco ISD Stadium in the TAPPS Division IV state championship game.
Sacred Heart (9-5) will have to wait some more for its third title and first since 2003.
St. Paul (11-1) has now won the past four-straight championships.
Sacred Heart coach Dale Schilling said the Cardinals are a well-coached team.
"They're so fundamentally sound," Schilling said. "They come off the ball. They blitz really good on the defensive line. We had a hard time picking that up... My hat goes off to them. They're a very good football team."
The Tigers' lone touchdown came in the final minute. Sophomore quarterback Ryan Swirczynski threw the ball deep for sophomore Augustin Ganzon, who made a man miss and ran in for a 47-yard score. Senior running back Seth Swirczynski ran in the two-point conversion on the last carry of his high school career.
Schilling said it was important to get the senior into the end zone one last time.
"Had we not thrown the touchdown pass, I was going to let him run the ball anyway there at the end," Schilling said. "I know it's tough. It's real tough on those seniors, but we have to build on it, and they'll do it. They'll help us all through the offseason now, as well."
The Cardinals ran the ball virtually every play and had plenty of success. Seniors Zakery Johnson and Noah Boedecker shared the rushing load. Johnson scored four touchdowns and two two-point conversions, and Boedecker had one of each.
St. Paul also shortened the game by running the clock down as much as possible before each snap. The Cardinals' first drive took half the first quarter. Shortening the game meant fewer chances for Sacred Heart to score and mount a comeback.
Sacred Heart moved the ball inside the St. Paul 10-yard line twice, but the Cardinals' defense held strong both times. The first chance came on the Tigers' first possession. Down 6-0, junior Nathan Hesse converted a 3rd down and 30 with a 42-yard run. Sacred Heart made it to the 3-yard line but couldn't get closer.
The Tigers reached the 5-yard line on the opening drive of the second half, but a fourth-down pass went incomplete, ending the threat.
Schilling said had the Tigers been able to take advantage of those opportunities, it could have been a different game.
"Especially the first time we got down there after they scored," Schilling said. "You never know what may have happened... But a team like Shiner St. Paul, they just don't make mistakes."
Sacred Heart loses four seniors after this season. Although they will be difficult to replace, having most of the team back from a state runner-up squad sets up the Tigers to have an experienced unit next season.
Schilling said this year's run was huge for the future of the program.
"Hopefully, we can get back in this game next year," Schilling said. "We are young. We're going to miss those four seniors, no doubt, but we just gotta get bigger, faster and stronger and try to get back here next December."