By Trent Friedel
The Saint Mary’s Tiger football team traveled to Northwood Lena to face the Gators Thursday night. The Gators hosted a tenacious Tiger team coming off a walloping of University Academy scoring an unprecedented 70 points in a very one sided contest. Northwood had a difficult task ahead of them this night. They also have been throttled by some injuries at key positions. Their starting quarterback and leading receiver would not see action in this contest.
Play started with the Gators winning the toss of the coin and electing to receive the ball and start on offense. On the opening possession, the Gators start with Cameron Kerik coughing up the ball on an under thrown pass that is hauled in by Bankston. Parker takes the ball up the right sided eluding a couple of would be tacklers and trots into the end zone for the first score. He adds the point after and the Tigers lead 7-0 with only about a minute coming off the clock. The follow up kickoff is covered up by the Gators but they are unable to gain positive yardage against a tough and physical Tiger defense. Gators line up to punt. The snap to the kicker Jamir Baxter is mishandled and he can’t get the kick off and is smothered by the Tigers. Saint Mary’s and the offense have their first opportunity to put points on the board. Aaron Howell completes a pass to Bailey Shelton. Shelton scores from 19 yards out and Bankston adds the PAT. Tigers lead 14-0. The clock sits at 9:38 in the first quarter. The Gators go three and out again after the linebacker core lead by Manuel sacks Kerik. Gators punt the ball back to the Tigers. The offense’s second verse is similar to the first as they methodically march down the field. This time Howell lofts a pass to Slade Bienvenu who easily strides in for the score. On the point after attempt, the snap is high to the holder Howell but Bankston is able to find Wes Manuel in the end zone for a two point conversion. The Tiger lead swells to 22-0. Zach White kicks off to the Gators and the Tiger defense continues their denial of Gator forward progress. Gators have to punt to the Tigers again. This time Matt Nelson gets the call to produce for the Tigers after a very nice pass from Howell to Shelton. Nelson runs the ball off tackle 24 yards to pay dirt adding six points. The point after attempt is no good and the score now sits at 28-0. With about a minute and change remaining in the first quarter, the Tigers would again add points. Howell hits Shelton bolting down the sidelines and he strides in for another Tiger score. The kick is good and the Tigers enjoy a commanding lead of 35-0 as time expires in the first quarter.
The second quarter would continue in much of the same fashion as the first with different names doing the scoring for the Tigers. On fourth and twelve from their own 28 yard line, the Gators try to fool the Tigers and try a long pass to get the first down. It only takes the Tigers two plays to score again on a pass from Bankston to Gallien who had beaten his defender. The point after is no good and the score is 41-0. The kickoff after the score goes through the legs of Baxter and he hustles to get to the ball but is swarmed by Tigers. The Gators have the ball deep in their own territory at the five. Gators again find no outlet for progress and have to punt. The kick is short and it gives the Tigers good field position. Graeme Fidelak scores on a run of about fourteen yards. Bankston kicks the PAT and the Tigers are up 48-0. That would end the scoring for the first half but not for the game.
Second half action started with the Tigers getting the ball from the Gators and a running clock for the fourth time this season. The entire second half saw almost exclusively back up personnel in for the Tigers. It did not however change the productivity. Austin Vienne in at quarterback executes the Tiger offense driving about 60 yards to score again. He caps off the drive with a 4 yard touchdown run. Fidelak runs in the two point conversion and the score is 56-0. The ensuing kick is brought in by the Gators and returned to almost mid field. It’s finally time for the Gators to make some progress against a Tiger cub defense. The young cubs yield some first downs and Kerik finally finds the end zone. Time had expired in the third with the fast running clock. The Gators score on a short run set up by a pass interference call against the Tigers. That left the Tigers about 5 minutes of running clock to just sit on the commanding lead and head home with the victory 56-6.
The competition next week will not be as easy for the Tigers. They go on the road to Logansport to take on an undefeated defending State Champion Tiger team. This game has all the makings of an exciting matchup. It will be the game that determines the district 3-1A champion and also have an impact on seeding for post season play.