By JAMES COOK
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — St. Francis shut out Grayling in the second half to pull away for a 34-14 football victory.
The Gladiators used a pounding running offense to help take the teeth out of Grayling’s aerial assault.
Joe Trucco ran for 199 yards on 17 carries, Daniel Gallagher rushed for 114 yards on 22 attempts and Byron Bullough gained 108 yards with 16 rushes. Each scored a touchdown.
“This is the fourth team in a row with a big-play offense that chucks it around, spreads you out and does those things,” St. Francis coach Greg Vaughan said. “So our guys are used to that. It’s not always going to work. The first series, they just marched down and scored pretty easily on us. We had to calm down a little bit coming into the second half. ... We ate 10 minutes to start the seconds half. We didn’t score, but we ate 10 minutes off the clock. And that’s always a good thing. That’s confidence for our kids.”
Bullough broke a 32-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-2 to give St. Francis a 34-14 bulge with 3:38 left.
After the Gladiator defense shut down Grayling (3-1) at its own 18 late in the third quarter, St. Francis (3-1) used the ensuing field position to go 54 yards for a weaving 7-yard Trucco touchdown run to make it 28-14.
Grayling took the opening drive right down the field, aided by a 41-yard kickoff return by Kevin Harris and ended by a Harris 9-yard touchdown run 1:04 into the game.
St. Francis rallied with a 12-play, 59-yard scoring drives, culminated by a Parker Guss 2-yard keeper over center.
The Vikings countered with a methodical eight-play, 65-yard drive that included four first downs and ended in a Michael Branch 4-yard TD run up the middle for 14-7 lead with 28 ticks remaining in the first quarter.
The Gladiators once again responded with a scoring drive of their own, going 63 yards in 11 plays, finished off by a Gallagher 5-yard TD run and a Bullough two-point conversion pass. A Grayling defender batted the original pass attempt away in the end zone, but Bullough alertly caught the deflection at the 5 and raced in for two points.
With 49.8 ticks left in the opening half, the Gladiators took a 22-14 lead on Parker Guss’ 11-yard TD pass over the middle to tight end Matt Seybert to complete an 80-yard drive over 10 plays.
Branch led Grayling with 78 rushing yards on 11 carries, while Tyler McClanahan hauled in six catches for 103 yards. Jake Swander was 11 of 27 passing for 129 yards. McClanahan had nine tackles for the Vikings, Kevin Harris 8.5 and Scott Tobin seven.
Playing with a cast on his right arm protecting a broken hand, Adam Armour led the Glads with 5.5 tackles, including a sack. Bullough and Lance Anderson had interceptions.
St. Francis had a 204-144 advantage in total yards in the first half, but ended up with a 419-234 lead. St. Francis held possession for 31:40, compared to Grayling’s 16:20.