SAGINAW — In the first half Traverse City St. Francis was able to contain Saginaw Nouvel running back Ryan Sullivan.
Not so in the second half.
Sullivan, limited to 54 yards on nine carries in the first two quarters, exploded for 147 yards and two touchdowns in the final two quarters in leading Nouvel to a 28-14 victory over the Gladiators Friday at Nouvel High School.
Sullivan scored on a 9-yard run in the third quarter and added a 13-yard touchdown late in the fourth that squashed St. Francis’s hopes. On both drives he had key runs that led to the scores — with two 19-yard bursts on his third quarter jaunt and a 71-yard scamper to the St. Francis 21-yard line that culminated in his second TD. Sullivan finished the game with 20 carries for 201 yards.
The Panthers (6-1) clinched a playoff berth with the victory.
St. Francis (4-3) was right in the thick of the game until the final minutes, never trailing until Sullivan’s first score made it a 14-7 game. The Gladiators tied the game 14-14 with 10:22 to play when Adam Armour scored on a 5-yard run and Jimmy Smith booted the extra point. However, Nouvel went right back ahead when Nicholas Ludka returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown.
Joe Trucco led St. Francis offensively with 100 yards rushing on 23 carries. Daniel Gallagher added 83 yards on 16 carries. The Gladiators were playing without running back Byron Bullough, who is out two games for violating team rules.
Trucco accounted for the only score of the first half when he ran in a 2-yard score with 9:54 left in the first half. Smith kicked the extra point for a 7-0 lead. The Gladiators had two other opportunities to score in the first half, but were unable to cash in — losing a fumble at the Nouvel 5-yard line and getting stopped at the Nouvel 19 as the clock ran out on the half.
Austin Hughes got Nouvel on the board near the midpoint of the third quarter, scoring from 11 yards out. He scored two plays after a fumble recovery by Joseph Mott. St. Francis had three turnovers on the night, while Nouvel had two.
Armour led the St. Francis defense with six tackles.
St. Francis returns home next Saturday to play Glen Lake.