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After a year of incredible stats, Football's season ends against CBC

The SLUH Football playoff run came to a halt with a 42-21 defeat against top-seeded CBC last Friday. Yet, this monumental season will be remembered for much more than the team’s final loss.

Sophomore Jacobi Oliphant going for a catch. Photo: Vic Lewchenko.

From the start, the Jr. Billikens knew the game would be a challenge. Even though SLUH started with a strong defensive stop on CBC’s first drive, a 35-7 scoring run ensued to quickly put the game out of reach for SLUH. By halftime, SLUH was already down by four scores. It seemed hopeless, but even in the face of adversity, both sides of the ball fought hard for SLUH, which was a theme of this year’s season.  

Senior wide receiver Chris Brooks led the offensive charge with 13 touches for 186 yards and three touchdowns and senior strong safety Philip Bone capped off the defense’s valiant second half effort with a goal line interception of CBC quarterback Patrick Heitert. Senior place kicker Thomas Ziegler also broke the SLUH career record for successful extra points, booting 97 through the uprights in the last three seasons. 

“Sure we would’ve liked to go farther, but we put up a great fight against a really good team,” Bone reflected. “I’m proud of what we did as a team this season.”

And proud they should be. SLUH reached the District Championship for the first time since 2011, defeated Chaminade for the first time since 2012, put up the most wins since 2015, and completely turned the program around from their 1-9 freshman season. Brooks attributes this previously unprecedented success to the senior class.

“Since freshman year, the seniors have had a vision of SLUH football and what it could be. We worked hard over the years and led SLUH to a place we haven’t been in over a decade,” Brooks said. “I’d say this senior class will go down as one of the most impactful senior classes SLUH has ever had.”

On top of the impact and leadership from the seniors, the team backed it up on field, as SLUH boasted 14 players on the 1st or 2nd team MCC All Conference lineups. 

On the defensive side of the ball, Senior Tommy Etling was awarded 2nd team honors at free safety after posting 90 total tackles, 4 interceptions, and a scoop-n-score touchdown this season. 

Junior Louis Kertz was selected to the 2nd team at linebacker. He boasted 5 sacks and 21 tackles for loss with 125 total.

Senior defensive lineman Pierston Sanders was named to the 2nd team. Sanders put up 5 sacks and 65 tackles, including 18 tackles for a loss. 

Junior Zach Ortwerth received 2nd team honors at linebacker, virtue of 76 tackles, 14 of which were for a loss, 2 sacks, and 1 fumble recovery.

Senior Cayden Owens was selected to the first team due to his breakout season for the Bills. Owens posted a SLUH record 12.5 sacks, along with 19 tackles for a loss of his 85 total tackles. 

Senior Phillip Bone landed on the 1st team thanks to his ability to fill the stat sheet week after week. Bone had 3 interceptions, 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery, and 10 tackles for a loss of his 115 total tackles. 

Rounding out the defensive honorees is senior linebacker DonTavion Sullivan who was awarded first team All MCC honors. Sullivan posted 2 interceptions, 5 sacks, and 19 tackles for loss of his 116 total. 

This was the first time this century that a SLUH defense had three players with 115+ tackles individually: Bone with 115, Sullivan with 116, and Kertz with 125. 

Aside from the standout honorees, it is worth recognizing those who fueled the defense that went unmentioned, including sophomores Jacobi Oliphant and Archie Carruthers, juniors Dillion Ramella and Danny Campbell, and seniors Alex Shelton and Donovan Raymond. 

On the other side of the ball, senior leader and quarterback Luke Johnston was named 2nd team All-MCC. Johnston threw for 25 touchdowns and 2,324 yards this season, the most yards passed for at SLUH in a decade. 

Ortwerth, along with being named as a 2nd team All Conference linebacker, was named a 2nd team tight end, as well. Ortwerth grabbed 20 catches for 298 yards this season and had 4 receiving touchdowns. 

Senior Andre Tucker was named 2nd team as an athlete. Tucker rushed 25 times for 293 yards and two touchdowns, snagged 7 catches through the air, had 1 interception, and 67 tackles, along with contributing to the Jr. Bill special teams. 

Two Jr. Billiken offensive linemen were honored for their stout blocking for Johnston this season: Veteran senior left tackle Kylend Watson-Brown on the 1st team and newcomer sophomore center Vince Chappuis on the 2nd team. 

Senior running back Derrick Baker was named to the 1st team lineup in his first full season with the Jr. Billikens. Baker led the Bills’ backfield with 1003 yards and 12 touchdowns and averaged 7.3 yards per carry. He was the first 1000-yard rusher at the U. High since Andrew Clair rushed for 1,661 in 2016. 

Sophomore Ryan Wingo was named first team All MCC at wide receiver. Wingo dazzled with his big play ability, as he posted 32 catches for 638 yards and 14 total touchdowns. He was also placed on the second team as a punter, averaging 42.11 yards per punt. 

Outside of the All Conference honorees, sophomore receiver Joe Harris and senior receiver Craig Ortwerth made clutch contributions to the offense throughout the season. 

To round out the offense, Brooks not only was named to the first team All Conference as a wide receiver, but was also named MCC Co-Player of the Year. Brooks tallied 22 carries for 176 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground, and a remarkable 49 catches for 959 yards and 9 touchdowns in the air, the most receiving yards in a single SLUH season since Mitch Klug and Stefan Sansone each logged 1,026 in 2011. 

St. Louis U. High faced their fair share of adversity this year. They lost senior two-way stud Isaac Thompson in just the second week of the season, and dealt with numerous other injuries that lingered through the season. With this adversity came an underdog mentality once the playoffs rolled around. Nobody thought the Jr. Bills would make it past the first round, nonetheless all the way to the championship. Johnston, Brooks, and Bone all agreed that SLUH’s 28-0 win against Lindbergh was the defining game of the season. 

“We branded ourselves as a team that could win and play well when it counted most,” Brooks said. “No one expected us to get past the first round, and we did exactly that.”

“It felt great to avenge the seniors from last year and to also shut them out made the whole experience perfect,” added Bone.

Years down the road, players on the 2021 St. Louis University High football team will remember the hard fought wins and losses and individual accolades, and they will be remembered as the team that turned this program around. 

“I’ll definitely remember this year as the season where SLUH football was no longer known as the laughingstock of the MCC,” Bone said. “I think everyone will remember us as a legit football team who could contend with anyone in the state.”

Yet, down the road, what these players will cherish most is the unique camaraderie and brotherhood that can only come from the gridiron. 

“I’ll carry the bonds I’ve created during this season and throughout my entirety of playing for SLUH,” Brooks said. “I’ve gotten close with people I probably wouldn’t have talked to had they not played football this season or any previous season.”

“I’ll carry so many memories with me,” senior quarterback Luke Johnston added. “Most importantly the relationships I was able to make with my teammates.” 






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