High school football: No. 9 Saints off to best start in recent memory

September 26, 2018

St. Charles' Sam Holtz rushes the ball against Triton on Friday night in St. Charles. The Saints won the game 28-21.

ST. CHARLES — Unblemished through four games, the St. Charles football team is off to its best start in recent memory.

The Saints — ranked No. 9 in last week’s Class AA poll — have managed only two winning seasons since 2007, but a hot start has them well on the way to their third. They impressed in blowout wins over La Crescent (55-0), Dover-Eyota (50-20) and Cannon Falls (32-8) but a 28-21 victory over Triton on Friday was perhaps the most impressive of the bunch.

“This is the best we’ve ever done — recently,” said running back Logan Wendt who rushed for 177 yards and three touchdowns against Triton. “This was a big win — a really big win.”

The Cobras have been a perennial thorn in SC’s side, earning lopsided wins in each of the past six matchups including a 60-16 victory in 2017.

“Triton has had our number,” SC coach Matt Reinhardt said. “Even when we’ve played OK, they’ve taken it to us”

But this year, the Saints are the ones taking it to the opposition.

Their formula for success is simple. On offense they pound the rock with running backs Wendt and Sam Holtz and quarterback Mark Buringa. And they play assignment-sound defense.

SC gained all of its 238 yards of offense on the ground and sustained drives, stringing together several nine-and 10-play drives.

“It’s hard for teams to keep defending you for a long period of time,” Reinhardt said. “Especially if we can string it together. Even if we just get two or three first downs and punt. We didn’t convert down here in the second half, but still it was a long drive and it wears on teams when you have to do that.”

While the focus is certainly on keeping drives going and staying on the field, the Saints offense has the ability to score from anywhere. Wendt scored on a 77-yard run against Triton, Holtz scored from 58 yards out in a 123-yard, two-touchdown effort against Cannon Falls, and Buringa had a 47-yard run in a three-touchdown game against La Crescent.

Each of SC’s runners bring something unique to the table.

“(Wendt)’s come a long ways even in four weeks,” Reinhardt said. “He keeps those feet moving and he runs bigger than he is. He says he’s 185 or 190, but there’s no way he’s that big. But he’s a strong kid who works hard in the weight room. And Sam is our big-play guy. He’s totally different from Logan. He was close to breaking a couple too.”

The Saints played stout defense against the Triton option running attack, allowing only 89 ground yards. They stayed true to their assignments, kept the runners in front of them, made tackles, and pounced on the Cobras’ mistakes.

Triton fumbled three times on errant option pitches and the Saints were there to recover two of them, including an early fumble recovery for a touchdown by defensive end Drew Leistikow. The defensive tackle penetrated the backfield and forced a hurried pitch, which Leistikow was in position to scoop up and run it back for the score.

This run of early-season success is unprecedented in recent Saints history. They started hot last season, winning their first two games, but fell off as the season wore on, losing six of the final seven. And in their 5-4 2016 season opened up with a pair of losses to powers Caledonia and Rochester Lourdes.

They’ve got another test coming up on Friday against a 2-2 Lewiston-Altura squad that started out on fire with wins over Lake City (37-14) and Zumbrota-Mazeppa (35-14) before falling to Dover-Eyota (27-24) and Caledonia (49-7).

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