Championship chase ends as Cardinal Ritter tops Republic

Republic quarterback Wyatt Woods and coach Ryan Cornelsen receive the second-place trophy after the Class 5 championship game Friday in Columbia. The Tigers came up short against the undefeated Cardinal Ritter. See full story on page 9. (Photos by Steve Rackley)

Wyatt Woods (5) powers through the middle of the line with help from Daniel Phillips (1), Kanon Krol (8), and Cory Craigmyle (48).

Caide White (9) sidesteps a tackle attempt by Dominique Dixon (1) on his way to the end zone.

Coach Ryan Cornelsen addresses his team after their 38-25 loss to Cardinal Ritter in the state championship game.

Republic had one of the largest crowds of the weekend, as thousands of fans made their way to Columbia to watch the Tigers compete in their first-ever Show-Me Bowl. (Photos by Steve Rackley)

Republic Tigers state runner-up
Republic hoped to match high-powered Cardinal Ritter College Prep score-for-score in the state championship game at Columbia, Friday, but didn’t have the firepower to keep up with the Lions, losing 38-25 to finish the season as runner-up in Class 5. Cardinal Ritter capitalized on big plays to build a lead and force Republic out of its preferred running style, but didn’t put the game away until the fourth quarter against the scrappy Tigers.
“Our kids played really, really hard. I’m really proud of what we’ve done and what they did today,” said coach Ryan Cornelsen. “There was no quit. We played hard until the final minute. Sometimes you come up short.”
Republic’s defense slowed down the Cardinal Ritter running game, but didn’t have an answer for the deep passes that the Lions have used all season to pile up gaudy offensive statistics. On the Lions’ first possession, a pass interference call on one long pass kept their drive alive, and they followed it up with another long touchdown throw. The two-point conversion made the score 8-0.
After Republic moved the ball on the ground to start its opening drive, Cardinal Ritter intercepted a deflected Wyatt Woods pass that came after the defensive back hit intended receiver Daniel Phillips.
“It didn’t start off quite like we’d hoped. We moved the ball, but we had some penalties there that set us back,” Cornelsen said. “A team that talented and that good, you can’t have penalties and expect to...put the ball in the end zone. We just didn’t throw blow-for-blow and put the ball in the end zone like we needed to, to be in the game at the end.”
After the interception, Cardinal Ritter fumbled the ball right back to Republic. On the next Tiger possession, Republic moved the ball 54 yards on 15 plays, scoring on a two-yard touchdown run by Woods. After Mason Cole’s extra point, Republic trailed 8-7.
Another quick score and two-point conversion by Cardinal Ritter made the score 16-7, but the Tigers managed to move the ball again. A 14-yard pass from Woods to Caide White made the score 16-13, and the Tigers failed to convert on a two-point attempt.
With less than a minute remaining in the half, Republic appeared to be on pace to match Cardinal Ritter “score-for-score” as coach Ryan Cornelsen intended. But the Lions’ quick-strike offense added another touchdown after a long kickoff return. Despite failing on the two-point attempt, Cardinal Ritter led 22-13 at halftime.
A score to open the second half would have put Republic back in position to pull the upset, but a penalty slowed down the drive and caused the Tigers to turn the ball over on downs. It didn’t take long for Cardinal Ritter to score again, making the score 30-13. Republic responded with an eight-play drive that ended with a three-yard TD run by Woods, but another two-point attempt failed, leaving the Tigers in a 30-19 hole.
Each team scored a touchdown late in the game. Republic’s final score came on the last play, and it was a 31-yard strike from Woods to James Rexroat to account for the final margin of 38-25. Even though the game was out of reach at that point, Cornelsen said his players wanted to continue to push.
“They didn’t want to quit,” Cornelsen said of the last score. “If we were going to go out, we were going to go out swinging. That’s why I called time out. There’s no quit in our kids. They’re going to play to the final whistle.”
The Republic faithful made things noisy all night, and Cornelsen and the players noticed the support, which has been a part of the Tigers’ success all season.
“It was really loud. When we were at Republic (the last two weeks), I thought it was really loud. But something about this stadium, we could hardly hear in our headsets. Our tight ends couldn’t hear,” he said. “What an amazing community to come out and be that loud.”
Republic out-gained Cardinal Ritter 363 yards to 321. Woods rushed for 135 yards and also threw for 135, completing six of 15 passes. He threw for two touchdowns and two interceptions. Kanon Krol rushed the ball 19 times for 58 yards.
“I just couldn’t be more proud of my team, my coaching, and our community,” said Woods. “What we’ve done these three years since [Cornelsen] got here has been amazing and unbelievable.”
Caide White rushed for 41 yards on six carries. Daniel Phillips carried the ball twice for eight yards. Rexroat caught two passes for 66 yards and a touchdown. Krol had his longest reception of the year, 35 yards. Phillips, Michael Worthy, and White also caught passes, with White scoring a touchdown on his reception.
Republic wraps up its season with a 12-3 record and the school’s first-ever Show-Me Bowl appearance. The Tigers’ second-place finish is the best ever for the program.
“We’ve been through a lot of battles. We’ve had big wins and we’ve had tough losses like today, but we stick together,” Cornelsen said. “That’s the most special thing.”


Lawrence County Record

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