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Ferocious front line sets tone, Valle sacks Festus

FESTUS, Mo. – Valle Catholic defensive end Tim Okenfuss and outside linebacker Brandon Giesler spent much of Friday evening wreaking havoc on opposing linemen and breaching the backfield.

The state-ranked Warriors delivered another ferocious effort against a school of much larger enrollment size, and were delighted to initiate the physicality.

Bryce Giesler established his all-state presence early and often, Sam Drury made a couple of incredible one-handed receptions, and their cohorts committed just one offensive penalty.

But the greatest dominance was wielded in the form of seven sacks and 16 tackles for loss, unofficially, as Valle Catholic topped host Festus 48-20.

The Warriors rolled into halftime leading 28-7 after Giesler scored his second touchdown from inside the 1, capping a methodical 11-play, 92-yard drive with 27 seconds remaining.

Drury, who missed two months last season due to injury, highlighted the march by reaching out with his right hand to snare a high 22-yard throw from quarterback Chase Fallert at the sideline.

Bryce Giesler enjoyed a thunderous start amid a persistent threat of light rain, and piled up 237 rushing yards on 19 carries before resting the entire fourth quarter.

He cut through a sizable hole provided by right tackle and fellow all-state senior Noah Elbert along with pulling left guard Jacob Calbreath for a 53-yard touchdown on the second snap of the game.

Giesler fended off a safety moments later on a 63-yard gallop, and Fallert followed with a 5-yard scoring keeper to regain a 14-7 advantage with 9:10 left in the first quarter.

Farmington transfer Jeremiah Cunningham answered the previous TD with a 66-yard strike down the left side to Will Reese, whose push to gain separation from the cornerback went undetected.

Cunningham was 6-of-7 passing for 153 yards, and for the second straight week, alternated series with elusive sophomore Essien Smith at quarterback for the Tigers.

But the defensive front for Valle Catholic (2-0) became the decisive factor from there. Okenfuss shined with a game-high three sacks, and Brandon Giesler added two more.

Carson Tucker was also busy from his inside linebacker spot with four solo stops for losses, dropping receiver Hayden Bates on a two early swing passes in the open field.

Drury had a 13-yard scoring grab on a bubble screen that made it 21-7, but a subsequent 41-yard pluck in front of the Festus bench against tight coverage may have been his most spectacular of the game.

Smith provided a spark for Festus (0-2) with three straight carries of 15, 15 and 16 yards amid a fast tempo, including a leap over the diving Okenfuss in the pocket and dazzling scramble to the Valle 44.

But the Warriors answered with consecutive sacks by Brandon Giesler and a combination of Tucker with Harry Oliver to force an eventual punt.

Okenfuss stuffed a fourth-and-2 run at the Festus 38 to open the third quarter, but the Tigers answered with a stop when a bounced snap resulted in a missed 24-yard field goal.

The momentum still remained with the visitors on the strength of two quick three-and-out series, and the Warriors briefly introduced a turbo clock before the stanza concluded.

Bryce Giesler picked up two first downs before Okenfuss plowed through a defender for a 20-yard score on his first carry. He added the two-point conversion for a 42-7 advantage after Grant Fallert bolted 65 yards on a receiver sweep.

Valle Catholic did not attempt a pass in the second half. Chase Fallert was 7-of-10 overall for 93 yards, and added 52 rushing yards on eight carries.

Okenfuss finished with 57 yards on eight chances, and Drury totaled 83 yards on four receptions. Back-up quarterback Alex Viox tacked on a late 13-yard touchdown keeper.

Festus scored twice down the stretch. Cunningham turned the corner for a 27-yard scramble toward the right pylon after his perfect throw on a deep crossing route to Landen Yates netted 60.

An unnecessary push in the back on a sailed fourth-down pass prolonged the last touchdown drive of the night, as Bates broke through from 6 yards out with 4:07 to play.

Six different Tigers notched at least one catch, but standout Arhmad Branch was limited to only a 17-yard gain on the first play out of halftime.

Elbert registered an early sack, and Isaac Basler boomed five touchbacks deep into the end zone for Valle Catholic, which makes its MAFC White Division debut at Fredericktown in week 3.

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