HARPERSFIELD — The final result on the scoreboard may not have been what St. John football coach Bob Dlwgosh was looking for Saturday afternoon, but he definitely had something to be proud of after his team battled but fell to Akron Springfield 32-18 at SPIRE Institute.
“We asked a lot of our kids today," Dlwgosh said. “We took on a Division III school with a young football team. I think we had 17 healthy kids to start the game, and make no mistake, we battled.”
The Heralds (0-3) were down two scores at the half, then 32-6 in the fourth quarter, but fought back to give the Spartans at least a bit of a scare.
With the fourth-quarter clock working toward the remainder of a three-day weekend, instead of thinking about what they’d be having at their Labor Day picnic, the St John offense went to work, putting together a nine-play, 55-yard drive, capped by a 1-yard plunge across the goal line by Devyn Mercilliott. Quarterback Jeff Watson was 3 for 3 on the drive for 32 yards, including a clutch 21-yard strike to Tyler Cathcart on third down.
The defense had a nice moment also on their next appearance, stopping the Spartans on fourth-and-4 at their own 25.
After the stop, Watson went to work immediately, airing one out to Andrew Williams, who slipped beyond the Springfield secondary and took the pass 75 yards for a score.
Dlwgosh was encouraged with the fight he saw from his team.
“I think this team last year, or a couple of years ago, would have folded up the tent,” he said. “These guys wouldn’t fold the tent, they put 14 points on the board. They made me really proud today.”
The effort was there, along with some individual results.
Mercilliott had 54 yards on six carries, while Watson finished 8 of 12 for 129 yards, including the home run ball to Williams, who had four receptions for 102 yards to go with the score.
“The thing about Andrew is he can break loose every now and then,” Dlwgosh said. “He’s a guy, I wish we could have found a way to get the rock to more today.”
Dlwgosh wants the Heralds to find a way to eliminate miscues in critical moments in the game. For the second week in a row, St. John had its share of mistakes in key situations that prevented the defense from getting off the field.
Early in the game, Springfield went through a sequence when it committed three consecutive penalties, backing them up from St. John's 15-yard line, all the way back to the 42.
Spartans receiver Andrew Zornes bailed them out by getting behind two Herald defenders and hauling in a 41-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Michael Fuller for Springfield’s first score of the game.
The Fuller-to-Zornes connection burned the Heralds a couple of other times before the afternoon was over. On the opening possession of the second half, the two hooked up for a 54-yard touchdown pass. Then, in the fourth quarter, with an opportunity to get off the field, the St. John defense lost Zornes again, this time allowing him to pick up 25 yards on a third-and-12 call, allowing the Springfield offense to stay on the field.
“Same kid, same play,” Dlwgosh said. “We also had some penalties on fourth down that really hurt. We’re a young team and we’re still learning and we’re improving, but it’s a building process. But until we learn to eliminate those mistakes and get off the field, we’re not going to build to winning football games until we can fix those types of mistakes.”
Springfield (1-2) was led by Fuller, who completed 9 of 13 passes for 184 yards and rushed for 97 yards on 18 carries.
St. John will open Northeast Athletic Conference play next week with a trip to Windham.