Needing a win to continue their league title drive, and what Brad Luthman calls their competitive edge, St. Henry rolled on with an impressive win Friday over St. John.
St. Henry – If there is an essence to high school football it’s this. Every now and then a team with destiny in sight..sets its sights on destiny.
Such was the case Friday night for St. Henry, 5-2 by way of record, coming off a quality win over Anna (double-overtime), with another team of less-certain destiny, Delphos St. John (4-3), bidding to cloud the Redskins vision of the future.
And of course a strong element to anyone’s fate is the age-old cliche’, taking care of business, which is exactly what Brad Luthman’s Redskins (now 6-2) did on their way to a workman-like 28-14 win Friday against the resurgent Blue Jays.
But destiny doesn’t come easy, you know, like winning Powerball. Fate is a product of trial and error, of setups and setbacks. And St. John threw down the gauntlet on their very first possession.
Taking the opening kickoff, Todd Schulte’s team embarked on a 14-play, 10-minute drive culminating in a Aaron Reindel 4-yard touchdown run with two minutes left in the quarter.
“We knew what we were in for,” said St. Henry coach Brad Luthman. “They came out and drove for 10 minutes and shoved it right up our face.”
But St. Henry answered, and with emphasis. On their own first series quarterback Daylon Lange dropped back, scanned the field and found senior receiver Blake Hoyng downfield about 10 yards behind the nearest St. John defensive back. Lange hit him in stride for a 69-yard touchdown with less than a minute elapsed. Scored tied, 7-7.
St. Henry threatened again on its next possession, Lange and Hoyng hooking up again for a 40-yard gain through the air, but the ‘Skins ultimately turned the ball over on downs and neither team could mount a threat again before the half.
It would stay tied until midway through the third quarter when Hoying picked his away through excellent blocking by his offensive line and bolted 40 yards nearly untouched for a go-ahead touchdown. The PAT was missed, and St. Henry lead 13-7.
St. John’s running back Aaron Reindel is one of the best, with excellent vision, patience, and the burst you need to become the MAC’s leading ground gainer. But the St. Henry defense was prepared, if not to stop him altogether, then by all means limit the damage. Reindel got his yards, 92 in all, but he didn’t get yards in big chunks. His longest run of the night…24 yards.
And while Jays quarterback Jacob Youngpeter had some success throwing the ball downfield, it wasn’t enough to create more running room for Reindel. Bottom line, St. Henry’s defense played well in the second half, denying both running game and pass game.
In the interim, the Redskins mounted another drive at the outset of the fourth that saw Ryan Luttmer plunge across the goal line for a 21-7 lead.
St. John’s lone scoring drive in the second half followed, culminating with a 10-yard pass from Youngpeter to tight end Tim Kreeger.
But Blake Hoyng was having a Reindel-like night of his own, and answered on the ensuing possession with a four-yard scoring run, his third marker of the night, to close out the game, 28-14.
As it turned out, the two big pass plays at the outset turned out to shape the destiny of the game, creating enough doubt in the mind of the Delphos defense to make the night go according to plan for St. Henry.
“It was something we had worked on during the week,” admitted Hoyng. “We came after ‘em early and hit it big. It was wide open.”
And it allowed Lange, a junior playing like a senior, to settle in and manage the game plan with near-perfect efficiency.
“The offensive line gave me great protection on the two deep throws early,” he said. “It allowed the running backs to do their jobs better. The receivers were making catches. It made my job easier. The offensive line and the way they played was a key to the game.”
Brad Luthman was grinning ear-to-ear over the fast start from Lange and Hoyng, admitting that the series of plays he calls ‘4 verticals’ has paid dividends all year.
“We’re actually 12 for 12 on the year with that play,” he admitted. “And I thought it was important after they came out like they did and put ten minutes of old-school football right up our face. We wanted to make sure everyone knew this was going to be a football game.
“It worked out that got our running game going in the second half. Honestly, #31 for them (Kreeger, 6’9”, 210 lbs.) is a beast at defensive end and we were trying to figure a way to block him. So we ran away from him. If anyone was paying attention we ran to the other side of the field the entire second half.”
It marked the sixth win of the season for Luthman and the Redskins, his third straight season to win at least six games. But more, with two remaining games (Marion and Ft. Recovery), his team played confidently against another quality opponent, knowing that the fate of their season is squarely in their hands. Win and keep playing. Currently sitting at #5 in the Region 24, continue to win and improve your post-season position.
“We’re playing with a good edge right now,” said Luthman. “We’ve played four big games in a row and we don’t want to lose that edge. Ever since we played Coldwater every week has been a big week. So because of that I think they’re becoming more comfortable. We’re playing a lot of sophomores and juniors behind some good senior leadership and because of that I think they’re coming into their own a little bit.”
And Lange’s words about his offensive line?
“Absolutely,” added Luthman. “We’re running behind three seniors at center, right guard, and right tackle. Those guys led the way, they’re buying into their roles, and we pride ourselves on hittin’…and I thought we started hittin’ there in the third and fourth quarters.”
Some numbers: Lange finished the night with 172 passing yards. Hoyng ran for nearly a hundred and scored three times. Ryan Luttmer was a good running complement again…and Hoyng, Tyler Schlarman, and Mitch Schwieterman kept the league’s top running back (Reindel), although nursing a sore ankle, at bay. He got his hundred yards, but they were largely outside the red zone.
But the biggest number, of course, is seven…as in seven wins. Marion awaits with what now appears to be the MAC’s biggest game of intrigue next week, a title stake on the line, with Marion, St. Henry, and Coldwater all nursing one loss.
“That’ll be special next week,” smiled Luthman. “Coach Goodwin’s kind of my big brother over there. He actually texted me this week and said if we both get it done to get ready to play for the MAC title…Goodwin-Luthman #I. I’ve got all the respect in the world for what they’ve built over there, but it won’t stop us from going after them. We’ll be excited.”
In horse racing terms, Luthman and the Redskins now stand at the top of the home stretch, the finish line in sight. They control their own fate and after years of being out of the MAC title picture, they welcome that.
“It’s nice to be in the running,” said Blake Hoyng. “It’s been a long time. It would awesome for our guys to get that.”