It was a tale of two halves Friday night between the St. Joseph Flyers and Shiner St. Paul Cardinals in Bloomington.
The game that St. Joseph won 33-14 at first could not have gone any better than planned for the Cardinals as they completely dominated the time of possession behind a powerful and ball-controlling, rushing offense. Yard by yard, the Cardinal offense picked up first down after first down. They took the opening possession and held onto the ball for ten and a half minutes before scoring on a 10-yard run by Zak Johnson.
“We kept running the ball hard in the first half. I had my guys blocking for me. I just ran behind them, working off of them,” St. Paul’s Zak Johnson said. Johnson finished the game with 144 yards on 35 carries, scoring the team’s two touchdowns.
Flyer kickoff returner KeAon Griffin found a crease in the St. Paul coverage team and flew 85 yards to quickly tie the game at 7.
St. Paul then continued to grind out run after run, eating up another 9 minutes, scoring again on a Johnson run.
The Flyer offense went three and out on their first possession, punting the ball to the Cardinals. With the Cardinal offense looking for more points before the half, Flyer Drake Hale intercepted a Kai Giese pass with 7 seconds remaining in the first half.
On the following play, St. Paul forced a fumble, recovered by Ted Machacek, and went into halftime with the game seemingly in control although only leading 14-7.
St. Joseph head coach Bryan Jones challenged his team during halftime.
“The kids had to dig down deep. We told them it was going to be a fight. We get tired, get fatigued, but we have to push past that,” said Jones. “We talked it over at the half, we made some tiny adjustments, but we just started to make plays.”
The adjustments worked as the Flyers scored 26 unanswered points in the second half, 20 of those in the third quarter.
Without senior starting quarterback Jacob Bordovsky, who is nursing an injury, J’Den Miller stepped nicely into the role.
After a nice kickoff return by Quincy Johnson to open the second half, Miller finished a quick Flyer drive with a two-yard score.
St. Paul followed the score by putting together another nice time-consuming drive. Looking to catch the Flyer defense off guard, they ran a nice play action pass. Seeing an open tight end running in the middle of the field, Giese made the throw, only to see it intercepted on a fantastic recovery effort by Flyer Quincy Johnson.
“We obviously wanted to keep the ball, but we missed too many opportunities. It was going to be a tough game, but when you miss some opportunities ... We definitely left some points out there,” St. Paul Coach Jake Wachsmuth said.
KeAon Griffin with a 66 yard touchdown run for the Flyers following a Quincy Johnson interception. Flyers lead St. Paul 20-14 2:45 left in the third @advosports— allstar77901 (@mayirsi) September 7, 2019
Immediately following the interception, Griffin reeled off a 66-yard touchdown run.
The Flyer defense then stepped up and forced a St. Paul fumble at the one-yard line, recovered by George Pena.
On the first play following the turnover, Miller ran in for his second touchdown, this one from one yard out. That capped St. Joseph’s third-quarter 20-point turnaround.
Griffin added a five-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter, capping the scoring for both teams.
Miller took his new role in stride, and did what he needed to do to lead his team to victory.
“After Jacob got hurt, Coach pulled me to the side and asked if I think I could do it. I said, ’Yes, sir’, and started getting reps in,” Miller said. “I was nervous; I didn’t know what to expect. The team came out and helped me.”
“J’Den is a student of the game,” Jones said. “He stepped in, picked up the offense and did a great job.”
The Flyers will have the same defensive task next week as they will contend with Industrial’s running attack. Offensively, the Flyers’ ability to strike at any moment in the game makes them a tough matchup for opposing defenses.
“I love that we are able to score at any point in time from anywhere on the field,” said Jones. “However, I want to be able to get the ground game going and run some time off the clock.”
The Flyers (1-0) will next take on Industrial, while St. Paul (1-1) will face St. Stephen’s Episcopal.