The Southview-St. Francis de Sales season opener Friday night at the Glass Bowl could be compared to a dam pushed to its limits before breaking.
For nearly 40 of the game’s 48 minutes, the Cougars and Knights hammered away at each other with St. Francis clinging to a 7-3 lead.
Then came the breaking point, as Southview outscored the Knights 20-14 over a furious final 8:42 to take a 23-21 victory.
In the end, what St. Francis contained but could not stop was Southview’s 1-2 punch of junior quarterback Austin Valdez (24 carries, 156 yards) and senior running back Jalen Marable (13 carries, 119 yards), as the Cougars topped the Knights 333-232 in total offense.
“We thought we’d throw the ball around a lot,” Southview coach Jim Mayzes said, “but they stayed back and forced us to run the ball and tested our toughness, and the Cougars showed up. It was a beautiful night and a great opening to the season.”
Pivotal in the game was a two-play stretch early in the final quarter when Valdez lost a fumble at the St. Francis four-yard line after his 11-yard run would have given Southview a first-and-goal opportunity.
But the Knights failed to make use of the miscue. On the next play, St. Francis senior tailback Jarrod Jefferson returned the favor, losing a fumble near the five-yard line.
“That was huge,” St. Francis coach Mike Blochowski said. “That was the game right there. We gave it right back to them at that end, and that hurt.
“Our offensive line felt they were going to come out [after Southview’s fumble] and set the tone there, and we gave it right back to them. That was tough on our defense.”
After a mad scramble to secure the ball, players on each team were hit with offsetting penalties for unsportsmanlike conduct. But, most importantly, the Cougars had new life on the Knights’ 12.
Two plays later, senior running back Jay Fisher (eight carries, 26 yards) rammed in from the 1 to give Southview its first lead at 9-7 with 8:42 remaining.
“Week one, this was a big win. It’s starts us off 1-0, and we want to keep rolling.”
The Knights’ charitable ways continued with 6:04 left when punter Michael McGowan lost the handle on a low snap and had his kick blocked by Southview’s Trevor Hamman. The Cougars took over at the St. Francis 7, and Fisher added another one-yard TD plunge for a 16-7 with 4:32 to play.
The Knights refused to quit, but ran out of time.
Michael Wagner’s 44-yard burst set up QB Andy Meinert’s eventual one-yard sneak to get St. Francis within 16-14 with 2:54 left.
But Marable bolted for a 54-yard TD with 1:15 remaining, giving Southview a 23-14 advantage. That play proved to be the difference, as Meinert hit Andrew Marinelli on a 16-yard TD pass in the closing seconds.
“We fumbled down there and they fumbled it rigt back to us,” Mayzes said. “That’s crazy stuff. Our rookie quarterbacks grew up a lot tonight because they dealt with the fact that we turned over to ball, and we got it right back.
“We had to be tough. They made us play them face to face in the trenches. It’s one game and we’re 1-0, and that’s all it is.”
“They hit that big one [Marable’s TD] late when we were trying to get the ball back,” Blochowski said. “But, other than that, we did a great job of forcing them to do something they didn’t want to do. I’m proud of our defense.”
Jefferson ran 16 times for 80 yards, and Meinert carried 16 times for 58 yards, and was 4-of-11 passing for 32 yards.
Valdez was 4-of-5 passing for 29 yards for Southview, which beat St. Francis 36-22 with a similar late burst of points in last year’s opener at the Glass Bowl.
Contact Steve Junga at: email@example.com or 419-724-6461.