By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
On a frigid and windy night, Springfield Catholic wanted to stick to the basics.
Passing? No way.
For Irish coach Steve Hancock, even executing their run-heavy option offense was a concern.
"We pitch the ball and ride with it a lot," Hancock said. "I was afraid we might put the ball on the ground a little bit, but we took care of it. That's one of the things we had to do tonight."
The Irish attempted no passes against Buffalo in Friday night's Class 3 District 5 championship game.
It didn't matter.
Quarterback Tyson Riley ripped off 111 yards and four touchdowns in the first half as the Irish rolled to a 42-6 win and the district championship.
Fullback Nick Crites added 134 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. Catholic (10-2 overall) plays at Mt. Vernon (11-1 overall) next week in the Class 3 quarterfinal round.
Friday night was sweet redemption for Catholic, who was a No. 3 seed in its district tournament the past two seasons but failed to reach the district finals.
Both losses were to Eldon; the Irish beat Eldon 40-14 last week.
"It was a huge win last week and now it feels great to finally come out and get (a district championship)," said Irish senior lineman Wallace Squibb. "We've been close the last two years. We've finished with six and eight wins (2016, 2017)… this time, we finally got 10 wins and we're moving on. Just gotta keep going."
Catholic scored touchdowns on all five of its first-half possessions. The Irish took a 35-0 lead into halftime and scored again on their opening possession of the second half before taking out their starters.
Riley finished with 149 rushing yards. He also had a key defensive play early in the game.
With Catholic leading 7-0, Riley, a safety on defense, deflected a pass over the middle that ended up in the ends of Irish defensive back Will Squibb.
Catholic took over on its own 22 and drove 78 yards in seven plays to score and go up 14-0.
"We wanted to get on them early," Hancock said. "(Buffalo) has had a great season. They're excited and they're fans are excited. We didn't want them to get more excited – we wanted to put out that flame early if we could."
With a running clock to start the second half, Catholic chewed up nearly nine minutes on its opening drive. Nick Crites' 1-yard touchdown run put the Irish ahead for good, 42-0.
"With how cold it was, the hands were hurting," Squibb said. "But we were still getting blocks and opening holes."
Buffalo totaled three three-and-outs and two turnovers on its first five possessions.
Sophomore quarterback Jamen Smith led Buffalo with 81 rushing yards on 14 carries. Buffalo finishes with its best record (9-3) this decade.
Next week's matchup is a rematch from the regular season. Mt. Vernon won 36-30 at Catholic on Oct. 12.
"Every rung, we're trying to get a little better," Hancock said. "Every rung you go, it's going to get tougher. We know it'll be tough next week."