The Columbia Eagles and Mater Dei Knights haven’t met on the football field since 2000. On Saturday in Breese before what is expected to be a huge crowd, the perennial metro-east gridiron powers will make up for lost time.
Cahokia Conference champion and state-ranked Columbia will put its undefeated record on the line when it travels to Clinton County for a second-round Class 4A playoff game with the Knights beginning at 1 p.m. at Mater Dei High School.
The contest will feature two of the most successful coaches in the metro-east in Scott Horner of Columbia and Jim Stiebel of Mater Dei. They will put their high-powered offenses and tough defenses on display with a berth in the Class 4A quarterfinals next week on the line.
And for football fans who enjoy offense, this will be the place to be. Columbia is averaging 41 points per game and Mater Dei is just below that at 40.4 points a game.
“We’re looking forward to a good football game. Coach Horner and I have a good relationship and I know he will have his kids ready to go and I know our football team is ready too,” Stiebel said in a telephone interview on Friday. “The good thing about us is that I think we’re peaking at the right time. Defense will be a key for us. If we play like we did last week against Civic Memorial, we’ve got a good chance of advancing. If we play like we did against Waterloo a couple of weeks ago, we could be in trouble.”
The game against Mater Dei will be the second in as many weeks against a team from Breese for Columbia. The Eagles edged Cahokia Conference rival Central 21-20 last week in their first round game.
Horner said he expects another tough game this week against the always tough Knights.
“They (Mater Dei) are a very good football team and in the playoffs it usually comes down to execution on both sides of the football,” Horner said. “When you’ve got two good football teams, turnovers and special teams also always play a big part. The team that does not turn the football over and is maybe able to force a couple turnovers on defense is usually the one that comes out on top.”
▪ Saturday’s Game: Columbia (10-0) at Mater Dei (7-3) at Mater Dei High School, 1 p.m.
▪ Last week: Columbia defeated Central 21-20. Mater Dei defeated Civic Memorial 34-14
▪ Rankings: Columbia was ranked seventh in the last regular season Class 4A football poll. Mater Dei was not ranked among the top 10.
▪ Playoff history: Columbia is making its 19th playoff appearance and is 18-18 all-time. Mater Dei is in the playoffs for the 24th time and is 24-23 all-time.
▪ Up next: The winner of the Columbia-Mater Dei game will take on the winner of the Taylorville-Herrin game in a Class 4A quarterfinal next week.
Scouting the Eagles
When asked to describe the Eagles, Stiebel didn’t hesitate in the least.
“They are big, physical, athletic and just a very sound football team on both sides of the football. Actually I see a lot of similarities between both of us,” Stiebel said.
Like Mater Dei, the Eagles have their share of playmakers on offense. Quarterback Drew Huebner has completed 62 percent of his pass attempts for nearly 1,600 yards and 21 touchdowns while in running back Kenny Fields, the Eagles have a player who has rushed for 1,529 yards, averages over seven yards per attempt and scored 17 touchdowns.
Colton Byrd has added 375 yards and six scores on the ground for the Eagles, while Jordan Holmes (39 receptions, 492 yards and 4TD’s); Lamont Read (20 catches, 325 yards, 2 TD’s) and Jonathan Holmes (15 catches, 221 yards, 5TD’s) are some of the weapons Horner can use.
Two-way standouts, Byrd, a linebacker and Holmes, a defensive back, are tied for second on the team with 54 tackles. But the leader is junior linebacker Owen Suedkamp wth 145 tackles, including 105 solos.
Scouting the Knights
Like Columbia, Mater Dei has a take charge quarterback in Colin Schuetz and playmakers all around heading into the Class 4A showdown. Schuetz has completed 139-of-259 pass attempts for 2,274 yards and 25 touchdowns.
Throwing to the likes of Brendan Timmermann (49 catches, 863 yards, 10 TD’s), Josh Haberer (30 catches, 445 yards, 2TD’s) and Jordan Kampwerth (23 catches, 375 yards and 6TD”s), Schuetz has had the Knights passing game in high gear for most of the season.
Timmermann (530 yards, 5 TD’s) and Brady Rakers (464 yards, 8 TD’s) have rushed for nearly 1,000 yards combined while Schuetz has 12 touchdown runs and 318 yards rushing on 91 carries.
Horner said that while Timmermann will be one of the players his team will focus on stopping, the Knights have plenty of talent all over the field.
“I know Timmermann has gotten a lot of attention for the season he’s had, but they (Mater Dei) have a guys who can make plays,” Horner said. “I like their other running back (Rakers), the quarterback has a strong arm and seems to make good decisions with the football and he’s got three or four receivers that he goes too.
“We just have to be fundamentally sound, be where we’re supposed to be and not give them the big play.”
Defensive back Sam Krebs leads Mater Dei in tackles with 73, while Rakers, a linebacker is second with 54.
A playoff reunion
The game on Saturday will be a reunion of sorts for Horner and Mater Dei assistant coach Randy Dooley.
Dooley was an assistant coach on Carlyle’s 1988 state championship team in which Horner was a star quarterback and also served as a basketball assistant for the 1988-89 Carlyle team which won the Class A state championship team. Horner was the starting point guard on that team.
“Coach (Dooley) and I are good friends and we usually talk at least once a week. We haven’t talked this week though,” Horner said. “It will be good to see and talk to him again on Saturday. I just wish it was under different circumstances.”