FALLS CITY — One was nice. Two sparked Humphrey St. Francis into the Class D-2 state football semifinals.
Taylor Wemhoff returned a pair of kickoffs for touchdowns, the defense clamped down and the No. 4 Flyers scored the game’s final 30 points in a 54-36 victory against No. 2 Falls City Sacred Heart on Tuesday at Jug Brown Stadium.
“It’s one of the best feelings ever,” Wemhoff said of his returns. “I barely had to do anything, just run straight. Our blockers opened it up so wide for us and it just made it easy for me to go through.”
Wemhoff’s first touchdown return, a 75-yarder, came in the first quarter, but it was his second, in the third quarter, that completely shifted momentum to the Flyers’ side.
Sacred Heart scored on its first two possessions of the second half to take a 36-24 lead. But it was quickly 36-30 when Wemhoff raced 70 yards for a touchdown.
“It’s big,” the junior said of his second special teams touchdown. “When you see a couple teammates have their head down, you know you have to step up and make a play.”
The touchdown returns were just two of many big plays for the Flyers on Tuesday night.
Another game-changer — a 51-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Pfeifer to Jarrett Weidner to close the third quarter — gave the lead back to St. Francis, which began tightening up on Sacred Heart's out routes in the fourth quarter.
“It was getting away from us a little bit,” St. Francis coach Eric Kessler said of Sacred Heart’s 12-point cushion in the third quarter. “The momentum was in their favor, you’re down two touchdowns and to them in the second half, it’s not looking pretty, so that (Wemhoff’s second TD return) was a huge play.
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“And our kids just dug deep. We started making some plays defensively, getting some sacks.”
The Flyers (11-0) jumped to a 16-6 lead on Wemhoff’s first touchdown burst. They took a 24-14 lead on Wemhoff’s 57-yard touchdown run when he cut to the right side of the field and up the sideline.
Then it was the Irish’s turn to go on a run. It was sparked by Tyler Witt’s 14-yard touchdown catch late in the second quarter, which capped a 10-play scoring drive.
Things looked up for the Irish when Witt hauled in a 5-yard score to push the Sacred Heart (9-2) lead to 36-24. But then Wemhoff struck again.
“It wasn’t anything we weren’t ready for,” Sacred Heart coach Doug Goltz said. “They just ran it right up the middle, we just didn’t get off their blocks. They blocked it well, and once is bad enough, but twice, just a killer. You work so hard to score, and then you just give it right back in a few seconds. It’s back-breaker.”
St. Francis will host top-ranked Johnson-Brock (11-0) on Monday for a trip to Memorial Stadium.
Sacred Heart senior Drew Bippes was 28-of-45 passing for 296 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed for two scores.
Wemhoff also rushed for 113 yards. Weidner also hauled in a 52-yard touchdown in the first quarter.