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Penney Stops Valle Short of State Title

January 12, 2010
Penney High School



ST. LOUIS - Three methodical and prolonged scoring drives produced 17 consecutive second-half points, and brought Valle Catholic to within minutes of capturing its 10th state football championship on Saturday afternoon.

The Warriors stripped Penney-Hamilton tailback Dylan Chadwick for a key red-zone turnover during their stunning rally from a 14-0 halftime deficit, and assumed their first lead on Kevin Abts' 25-yard field goal with 7:35 remaining.

But Chadwick redeemed himself with the pivotal moment of the MSHSAA Class 1 Show-Me Bowl moments later, breaking three tackles along the line of scrimmage to deliver a 50-yard scamper for the rejuvenated Hornets.

Junior quarterback Keagan Prather scored a 7-yard keeper on the ensuing snap, and his second interception of the day with 2:33 left sealed a 21-17 triumph, as Penney-Hamilton claimed its first state title in school history.

Chadwick finished with 97 yards on 13 carries after leading rusher Trevor Dixon was injured in the third quarter. Dixon tallied 72 yards and Prather added 50 on the ground for the Hornets (14-0).

Both teams entered the contest boasting perfect records and high-powered offenses, although the Warriors featured the more diversified attack. However, each defense proved itself capable of making timely plays.

Valle (14-1) nearly doubled the Hornets in first downs and posted a 418-299 advantage in total yards, but Penney countered with three interceptions to win the turnover battle.

Senior quarterback Michael Greminger was 20-of-30 passing for 256 yards, and his consistent rushing success rallied the Warriors after intermission, as Penney utilized only three down linemen while covering five Valle receivers.

The Warriors dominated the third quarter with drives of double-digit plays covering 64 and 84 yards. Greminger capped the initial scoring march with a 1-yard sneak after completing an 18-yard pass to senior Nathan Geile.

Two open-field tackles by linebacker Christian Moulton forced a second three-and-out by the Hornets, and the Warriors gradually picked apart the Penney defense by mixing in numerous short passes.

After rushing for nine yards on a fourth-down conversion, Greminger found Geile behind the secondary for a 29-yard strike that pulled the Warriors even at 14-14. It was Greminger's 37th touchdown pass of the season.

Jason Blum matched Geile with five receptions while Nick Brown and Zach Weiler had four apiece for the Warriors. Greminger totaled 93 yards rushing and tailback Luke Uding had 54.

Penney threatened an instant response when Dylan King gained 31 yards with a sharp cutback, and Chadwick burst 15 yards on the first play of the final stanza.

But Blum alertly recovered a subsequent forced fumble by Aaron Basler on the Edward Jones Dome carpet at the Valle 9, and the Warriors capitalized by advancing 83 yards for their go-ahead score.

"We said in the locker room at halftime that this was a backyard fight, and that we needed to start throwing some punches, or we were going to lose," said sixth-year Valle coach Judd Naeger.

"Our kids made a lot of big plays after some people may have counted them out. We probably should have established the run more in the first half, but I'll never forget the way our guys played in the second half."

The Hornets limited Valle to three points after knocking down two potential dangerous passes near the goal line. Prather then provided a bigger play in the secondary after Penney regained the lead.

The Warriors reached the Penney 37 with about three minutes to play, and decided to look deep on 2nd-and-13 following a penalty. Prather made a leaping grab in double coverage, and the Hornets ran out the remaining time.

"We wanted to take a shot deep. All season long, we've been a team that leaves nothing in the bag of tricks," added Naeger. "(Greminger) made a good throw but (Penney) had two guys there. It was one of those plays that could have gone either way.

Dixon emphatically stopped the initial Valle drive with a 66-yard touchdown return down the sideline after intercepting Greminger. Both teams were stopped on downs inside the opposing red zone later in the first quarter.

A 2-yard run by Prather increased the Penney lead with 1:16 left in the half, and the score remained 14-0 after Prather snatched an end-around halfback pass from Weiler on the Hornets' 6.

Nick Zerwig recorded seven tackles while Uding and Brown made six each for the Warriors, who notched their last state crown in 1995, when Naeger was the starting quarterback.

 "To play 15 games this well is outstanding," added Naeger. "This team is as good as those state-title teams were, and I can tell you that firsthand."

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