The old adage that hard work in the offseason spells success under the lights on Friday nights rang true for St. Francis de Sales in the Knights' opener.
St. Francis ground out a 21-18 win over Southview at the Glass Bowl, rushing for more yards than the Cougars totaled overall.
The Knights ran for 289 yards led by junior Lamar Carswell's 179.
Southview pulled within three points with 5:18 left. The Knights were able to pick up two first downs — all on the ground — to literally run out the clock.
“What a game,” St. Francis coach Chris Hedden said. “I credit the offensive line. Our backs ran hard. This started last November when we got in the weight room and grinded all winter long. I challenged our kids. I told them we couldn't be the weaker team anymore. We were stronger tonight and we physically dominated them when we needed to and we ran the clock out.”
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St. Francis finished with 363 yards of total offense. Southview had 288, including 199 through the air.
Knights quarterback David Nees threw two touchdown passes in the first half as the Knights took a 14-0 lead.
“We worked hard all summer and we knew what we needed to do,” Nees said. “We just went out and executed. Our O-line did a great job to finish the game out.”
Carswell averaged 11.2 yards on 16 carries. The first-year starter's 29-yard scamper in the fourth quarter led to the decisive score.
“This is amazing because all of the hard work finally paid off,” Carswell said. “Its' a great feeling. This will give us a lot of momentum.”
Southview's J.J. Pinckney had two catches in the game and both went for touchdowns. He scored on an 80-yard play and on a 19-yard strike.
Down 14-7 at the half, Southview took the first possession and ran 8:16 off the clock. The Cougars marched 69 yards but had to settle for a 26-yard field goal from Kurtis Parsons that made it 14-10.
“Four more points would look pretty good right now,” Southview coach Jim Mayzes said after the game. “But you have to credit St. Francis. They were able to keep slugging and get that last drive after we challenged our kids. That was the difference. It was a close game and that's what the score says.”
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St. Francis drove 53 yards to go up 21-10 with 7:56 left in game. All six plays were on the ground, capped by a one-yard leap by Keontae Johnson. The sophomore finished with 66 yards.
“I'm proud of both Lamar and Keontae,” Hedden said. “I have confidence in both of them. And you have to have a great quarterback and I think we do.”
Southview quickly answered with a 76-yard drive on 10 plays. Griffin McDonald (13 of 21 for 119 yards) connected with Pinckney on a 19-yard strike. The two-point conversion was good, but St. Francis still led 21-18 with 5:18 left.
Southview had no timeouts left and Nees picked up a first down on a QB sneak to end it.
The Knights mounted an impressive 12 play, 80-yard drive to open the game with a touchdown. Nees (6-of-11, 55 yard) connected with Andrew Bonfiglio on a nine-yard pass for the score. Nees converted twice on third down with completions to Bonfiglio. The opening drive also included a 43-yard run by Carswell.
Late in the first quarter, St. Francis senior safety Josh Truscinski stepped in front of McDonald's pass and returned it 44 yards to set up the Knights' second score. Two plays later St. Francis took a 14-0 lead as Nees connected on a fade route with Steven David on nine-yard score.
Southview countered with a 59-yard kick return by Keith Gilmore. The Knights stuffed Southview on a fourth and goal at the St. Francis one-yard line. John Fudacz made the stop. Fudacz came up with a 13-yard sack to end Southview's next drive.
Southview's Josh Garmon recovered a fumble to help Southview get on the board. The Cougars struck one play later with an 80-yard pass play from Gilmore to Pinckney. Gilmore took a hand off and threw the ball to Pinckney who kept his balance and sprinted about 53 yards for the score.
The Knights defeated the Cougars 30-27 in last year's opener.
Southview stumbled out to a 2-4 record and finished 6-4.
St. Francis lost seven of their final nine games to go 3-7.
“Southview is a great opponent. Every year they bring skill and great toughness,” Hedden said. “They have a great coach. So it's great to beat a program like that.”
St. Francis had two touchdowns called back on penalties.
“We had a lot of plays that we left out there,” he said.
“We could have broke this thing open but we hurt ourselves."
St. Francis plays at Bedford next week.
Southview hosts Central.
Contact Mark Monroe at: email@example.com, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.