Congratulations Dragons!

Dragons settle for second in state
by Bob Scott

STE. GENEVIEVE -- Ste. Gen's run for a state football championship took a reverse on the opening play of the Class 3 title game on the turf in the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis Saturday.

Adam Schwent is being checked out by trainers and physical therapists after he was hurt on the very first play of the game. He was unable to play, except for brief appearance on defense in the third quarter, for the rest of the game. 

"We lost our main man on both offense and defense," said Ste. Gen coach Bob Stolzer.

The Harrisonville Wildcats kicked off and the Dragon's Eric Hogenmiller took it on his own seven-yard line. He handed off to Adam Schwent on a reverse at the 14. Schwent headed up the right sideline and appeared to have running room. As he made a cut at the 38-yard line his right knee buckled and he went down without being touched.

"I planted and tried to cut back and just felt a pop," Schwent said.

Schwent apparently suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament on his 24-yard return. He will undergo an MRI on Monday.

The senior running back, who led his team to the championship game, and needed only 145 yards to become the state's all-time single season rushing leader, watched the remainder of the game from the sidelines. After being taped he attempted to return to the contest on defense but in obvious pain was forced to leave the field after only one play in the second quarter. On crutches after half-time he stayed on the sidelines attempting to cheer his team on but could not play.

"We would have gladly accepted second place if Adam could have played," Stolzer said.

Schwent led the Dragons in rushing with 2,950 yards on 372 carries and 30 touchdowns. He was also the team's leading receiver with 26 receptions for 317 yards and 2 touchdowns. From his linebacker position he led the Dragons in tackles with 87. He also was the team's punter.

"Adam was the best football player to ever walk the halls at Ste. Gen high. To loose him takes a big part out of your game plan on both offense and defense," Stolzer said.

The Kansas City Star in their Sunday edition called Schwent a premier running back---perhaps the best high school back in all Missouri this year.

Against undefeated Herculaneum this season the Dragons held an 18-0 fourth quarter lead until Schwent was hurt and taken to the hospital. After his exit the Dragons gave up three unanswered touchdowns and lost 21-18.

"Adam is like our sparkplug. When you take the sparkplug out the engine sputters," Stolzer said after the loss.

Without Schwent Saturday the Dragons sputtered on offense.

"We played with them in the first quarter but we couldn't really move the ball and establish our offense," Stolzer said.

With Schwent on the sidelines the Wildcat's senior-junior backfield of Zach Wood and Reuben Hartzler combined for 334 yards rushing as Harrisonville won 35-0 to complete a perfect 14-0 season. After runnerup finishes in 1970 and 1983 it was their first ever state championship.

"Take nothing away from Harrisonville. They were a darn good football team. Our hat's off to them. I don't know if we could have beat them if Adam could have played but it would have been a better game," Stolzer said.

Harrisonville coach Fred Bouchard embraced Schwent after the game when the players met to shake hands.

"They were a class act," Stolzer said.

Hartzler scored the Wildcats first two touchdowns on runs of 32 and 19 yards. He finished with 159 yards on 15 carries. Wood led all rushers with 175 yards on 14 attempts. He gave the Wildcats a 21-0 lead on a five-yard TD run in the second. Harrisonville quarterback Jon Layden's eight-yard TD toss to Travis Huseman put the Wildcats on top 28-0 at the half.

A 12-yard TD run by Jesse Larcom with 33 seconds left in the third quarter pushed the score to 35-0. The remainder of the game was played with a continuous clock.

Leading 14-0 with 9:00 left in the second the Wildcats recovered an onside kick.

"I think that other than Adam going down on the opening play that was the turning point in the contest. They drove in the score and took control of the game," Stolzer said.

After driving to the Harrisonville 31 on their first possession the Dragons never threatened until the fourth quarter when they reached the Wildcats 14 only to give up the ball on an interception.

"I was proud of the kids. They never quit. They played hard till the end," Stolzer said.

The Wildcats ran for 384 yards on 46 attempts. They completed only three of nine passes for five yards with an interception.

Ste. Gen managed only 66 yards rushing on 28 attempts. In the air, Nathan Hutson added another 105 yards on 8 of 16 passing with two interceptions.

Travis Gettinger was the Dragons leading rusher with seven carries for 37 yards. Taylor Huck picked up 23 yards on 16 carries.

Jon Inman led Ste. Gen receivers with three catches for 67 yards. Huck had two for 29 and Dane Werner one for 12 yards.

Hogenmiller led the Ste. Gen defense with seven tackles, Brad Fallert and Travis Gettinger each had six tackles, and Kellen Stolzer had five.

The Dragons after a 4-3 start finished the 2003 season 10-4.

"It's hard but I told the kids not to dwell on the loss. We had a great season and one of our goals was to play in the dome for the state championship," Stolzer said.

The Dragons last state football title was in 1992 and was played in Columbia. This was Stolzer's 25th year of coaching.

"I don't know what I would do if I wasn't coaching football," he said.

There are no official crowd numbers but it is believed that nearly 5,000 fans were in the stands for the Ste. Gen game.

"It was really something to look up and see all those people. It was a great experience," Stolzer said.

The 2003 state championship game will likely be remembered as the "what if" game by Ste. Gen fans since it was played without Schwent.

"That's something that will always be talked about...but I guess we will never know," Stolzer said.