Two fourth-quarter TDs key St. Viator win over Richmond-Burton
St. Viator's long drive to get to its Class 4A first-round playoff game was compounded by continually getting backed up deep into its own territory by Richmond-Burton.
But the 12th-seeded Lions' return trip to Arlington Heights turned out to be a real joy ride. They broke a scoreless battle with two fourth-quarter touchdowns in a span of 2:17 for a 14-0 victory on a chilly and windy Friday night at No. 5 Richmond-Burton.
"Amazing," said senior safety Driese Raap of St. Viator's first playoff win since 2016. "This is one of the greatest moments of my high school career."
Raap's diving interception was sandwiched by touchdown runs of 1 yard by Michael Tauscher and 17 yards by Dayvion Ellis to set the final score with 6:12 left and put the Lions (6-4) on their way to a second-round home game next weekend against No. 4 Wheaton Academy (9-1), a 68-0 winner over Chicago Phoenix. R-B (7-3) had six possessions stall out inside the Lions' 31 as it lost in the first round for the first time since 2016.
"R-B is a great football team and we knew they can pound the football on us with the run game," said Viator coach Dave Archibald after getting a celebratory Gatorade bucket dousing. "I told our guys and coach (Vince) Nardiello, our defensive coordinator, they were going to get yards but find a way to stop the series. Obviously we did that when we needed to."
R-B had first-half drives end at the Viator 9, 31, 18 and 21. The latter was set up by Jack Martens' interception and 23-yard return to the Lions' 37, but the Jeff Lehn's 37-yard field goal was pushed wide right by the strong wind four seconds before intermission.
"We knew at halftime we were stopping them the whole time," Raap said. "We couldn't give up our rules and let them break one on us."
Richmond-Burton came out on the first possession from its 20 with a steady diet of powerful 1,000-yard fullback Braxtin Nellessen (22 carries, 109 yards). But a 12-play march that ate up 6:32 ended on a fumbled exchange recovered by Raap on third-and-1 at the Viator 25.
"Against good teams on our schedule we struggled to finish drives and tonight it was like that again," said R-B coach Mike Noll. "It was exactly what we wanted to do into the wind, take eight-nine minutes off the clock and score and have all the momentum. That was the plan anyway."
Viator saw its next drive end when quarterback Cooper Kmet (11-for-17, 145 yards), who just earned the Chicago Bears' Player of the Week award, had the ball knocked loose on a draw and Luke Rendtorff recovered at the R-B 10. But Viator's Star Gu forced a three-and-out and it got the ball at the R-B 46 to start the fourth quarter.
Kmet's passes of 21 yards to Ellis (82 yards rushing, 72 receiving) and 5 yards to Tauscher put the Lions inches from Tauscher (7 carries, 85 yards) reaching the end zone. Raap's third interception of the season on the next play led to Ellis' touchdown run on a reverse.
"It felt like the whole game we were one play short and we knew we'd break out of that and get done what needed to be done," Ellis said. "On all of our plays their defense adjusted to how we were flowing that way. Coach drew up a great play to get us the reverse and it worked."
R-B's final possession ended at the Viator 23 with 4:06 to play. Charlie Dolsen's two tackles for losses included one for 6 yards on fourth-and-3 at the Viator 18 in the second quarter.
"One hundred percent," Archibald said of the Lions' tough schedule preparing them for the postseason. "We're a younger team this year but we've gone through all types of games. We've truly been battle-tested."