TAPPS SMALL SCHOOLS: St. Paul, Sacred Heart look to continue dominance
TAPPS DIVISION III AT-A-GLANCE
37 total teams over six districts (five six-team districts and one seven-team district)
16 teams advance to the playoffs (two from each district and four wild cards.)
The favorites all have a major question surrounding them.
But, expectation, and tradition, will likely overcome the questions circling the football programs at Hallettsville Sacred Heart, Shiner St. Paul and Bryan Brazos Christian this year.
Those three powerhouses all made the semifinals in the TAPPS Division IV playoffs last fall. The trio will again be grouped together. This time it will be TAPPS Division III, District 5.
St. Paul and Brazos Christian have new coaches. Meanwhile, Sacred Heart, the reigning Division IV state champions, has to replace its entire offense.
Brandon Green takes over for Boyd Brigham at Brazos Christian. Despite losing a pair of workhorses in Jaxton McNair and Brad Brown, the Eagles, who were 11-2 last year, might be the best challenger to the St. Paul and Sacred Heart monopoly on the district crown.
"You have to keep your team motivated until the final two games because those two games are definitely going to be important," said Sacred Heart head coach Pat Henke about a schedule that concludes with Brazos Christian and St. Paul.
Henke knows teams will be gunning for his Indians because they are the reigning TAPPS Division IV state champions. He added few will pity the Indians for losing 13 seniors.
Scott Stoner is the only returning starter on offense for Sacred Heart, but he's been moved from wide receiver to the backfield. He'll be joined in the backfield with Jonathan Vanek, Leightin Pilat and occasionally Lucas Allen.
Down the road at St. Paul, it's not about who is stepping up, but who is stepping in to coach the Cardinals again.
Jake Wachsmuth returns to a St. Paul program where he racked up a 32-6 record in three seasons. After a year coaching in the Yoakum secondary, Wachsmuth realized the family atmosphere at Shiner's private school was too tantalizing to keep him away for a second season.
"The kids are pretty familiar. Having been here before for three seasons, it's not like they are learning a brand new system," Wachsmuth said. "They are scrapping a little rust off and they have picked up on the things we have done pretty quickly."
In 2011, under head coach Paul Johnston, the St. Paul offense averaged 357 yards per game. To the surprise of many, the Cardinals had a higher average through the air (180) than the ground (177). That almost certainly will not be the case this year as Wachsmuth will reinstall a ground-based attack.
With an offensive line where everyone weighs at least 200 pounds, St. Paul plans to be physical at the line of scrimmage and run the football.
Such size up front doesn't mean the Cardinals will abandon the pass. Wachsmuth said quarterback Dakota Kresta will throw the football this year, but it won't be as frequently as last year. As a junior, Kresta threw for 2,446 yards and 26 touchdowns.
"If someone comes to watch us play, they will see we want to be aggressive and come after people offensively and defensively," Wachsmuth said. "There are a lot of ways to play football, but we do a lot of things in the old traditional way."
Recent tradition has meant Sacred Heart and St. Paul have dominated whatever district they have competed in. They have combined to win the last six district championships and three state championships.
There are three other teams in the district, but Bryan St. Joseph, Schertz John Paul II, and San Antonio St. Gerard won a combined two games last year. John Paul II was 1-9 last year, its first playing 11-man football. St. Joseph was 1-10 a year ago, while St. Gerard was winless.
• Coach: Pat Henke
• Years at current school: 32
• Record at current school: 264-114-1
• Years as head coach: 32
• Last year's record: 14-1, 3-1 in district
• Last playoff appearance: 2011, state champions
• Returning starters: WR Scott Stoner, CB Jonathan Vanek, LB Casey Jirkovsky, DT Brier Shimek, SS/QB Leightin Pilat.
Shiner St. Paul
• Coach: Jake Wachsmuth
• Years at current school: 4
• Record at current school: 32-6
• Years as head coach: 4
• Last year's record: 11-3/3-1 in district
• Last playoff appearance: 2011, state final
• Returning starters: RB/DB Adam Hollenbach, RB/LB Martin Kennedy, RB/LB Mitchell McElroy, QB/DB Dakota Kresta, TE/LB Dylan Barton, WR/DB Cole Hybner, WR/DB Jared Markham, OL/DL Laddie Patek, OL/DL Justin Siegel, OL/DL Austin Horne, OL/DL Travis Raabe.