By Trent Friedel, exclusive to the Times
Saint Mary’s hosted the Northwood Lena Gators for a first ever regular season game on the confines of the campus. The event was much anticipated and the general consensus is that this is probably a preview of things to come. The field conditions were somewhat wet as rain poured for the better part of the day and night leading up to the Thursday event. Tailgating started early and there were jump houses for the little folks. There is nothing like playing football in a college stadium, but there is also nothing like defending your home field and the pride of playing on campus.
The closeness of the fans to the action makes things just a bit more special. The Tigers have been struggling this season and this game was a real pick me up for the senior class that will always be able to say they were the first to play at home. The gridiron action started with Northwood receiving the ball.
The Gators quickly go three and out punting to Saint Mary’s setting up good field position. The Tigers score on their initial drive on a 49 yard pass from Parker Bankston to Tate Nelson. Put a check mark in the history book for those two. First ever score on the home field will be recorded as Bankston to Nelson. Emerson Rodriguez added the extra point. Saint Mary’s defense then comes up big with a fumble recovery and score by Zach Harrell on the first play after the kick.
The point after is again good and the Tigers take a 14 – 0 early lead. The Gators try running with #4 and progress to the Tiger 30 before the drive stalls. Saint Mary’s scores again on the next series after making good progress on a mix of pass and run. The score comes on a pass from Bankston to Nelson of 18 yards. PAT is good and the score is SMH 21 – 0. The first quarter expires on the ensuing Gator possession. Saint Mary’s takes over after the Gator’s punt and they again drive down the field while running time off the clock. Emerson Rodriguez has the distinction of being the first to score a field goal as he puts one through the up-rights. SMH 24 – 0.
Northwood is able to put points on the board with a 1 yard run by Ross Brosette with about 4 minutes remaining before the half time break. Tigers 24, Gators 7. Brock Zeagler got in on the scoring action with a 4 yard touchdown carry. The score culminated another good drive by the offense. Emerson tacked on the point after and the score now is Tigers 31 – 7.
Saint Mary’s gets one more chance and takes full advantage of it. Bankston hits Graeme Fidelak on a 60 yard strike for the score with only 13 seconds showing on the clock. Rodriguez remains perfect on extra points and the Tigers lead 38 to 7 going into half time.
Saint Mary’s receives the second half kickoff and goes to work again. Jasen Elie gets the score after several good runs leading up to a 4 yard play off left tackle that propels him to the goal line. The point after kick is good and the score swells to Tigers 45, Gators 7. The rest of the third quarter is a back and forth contest between the two squads. The Tigers add an exclamation point in the waning minutes of the contest. Tony Arnold scores on a 12 yard run and Emerson adds the point after. SMH 52, Northwood 7.
The Gators get one more score with under a minute to play. Cameron Kerik busts loose for a 68 yard run. The kick is good to add the extra point and the final score is Tigers 52, Gators 14. Saint Mary’s will close out the regular season this Friday night at home. Senior night will take place at Turpin as the Tigers host Logansport.
Logansport is the crown jewel of the district and is currently the fourth seed in the power rankings. They are undefeated coming into the contest and will give Saint Mary’s all they can handle.