By ERIC X. VICCARO
The Valle Catholic High School football team’s maiden voyage through the Class 3 playoffs begins this week against St. Mary’s.
The Warriors and Dragons clash at 7 p.m. Friday at Father John Dempsey Field in Ste. Genevieve. The game will
Valle Catholic (10-0) will have had two weeks to prepare for this, since the Warriors drew a first-round bye with Doniphan unable to play due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
“Anytime you have extra time (to prepare) it is a plus,” said Valle Catholic head coach Judd Naeger, who has piloted the Warriors to several state championships in the past decade.
St. Mary’s (3-1) and Valle Catholic have not faced each other in recent memory, so there’s no familiarity going into the game.
Still, Naeger provided an exemplary scouting report on what to expect.
“St. Mary’s has a spread offense with a ton of very fast, skilled players and a big, active offensive line,” the coach commented.
The Dragons also play an aggressive style defense, and the Warriors expect a mighty challenge.
St. Mary’s has an abundance of talent, with multiple players entertaining college offers. Junior Kevin Coleman is the fourth-ranked wide receiver among the junior Class of 2020, according to the scouting services.
Valle Catholic has been rolling through opponents this season, averaging 53.7 points per game and surrendering just 10.9 points per contest on defense. The Warriors have a whopping 3,954-1,609 edge in scrimmage yards.
Coleman will face two stout Valle Catholic defensive backs in Aiden Heberlie and Drew Bauman, both of whom have recorded three interceptions this season. Heberlie also has 13 passes defended, and Bauman 12.
Josh Bieser, Tim Okenfuss and Austin Burnett have anchored the defense throughout the season. Okenfuss has recorded 18 tackles for loss and six quarterback sacks. Bieser and Burnett have 73 and 67 tackle points, respectively.
“We must fly to the football with clear eyes,” Naeger said.
Heberlie also has been a gun in special teams, with three punt returns for TD and 108 total points in offense.
Naeger said the Warriors will need to protect the ball, which has been a concern in several games this season.