BY CHRIS DOBROWOLSKI firstname.lastname@example.org
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — It was a good start.
It was a good finish.
But sprinkled in between St. Francis’s 49-7 win over Charlevoix on Homecoming at Thirlby Field on Friday was a penalty-filled night that took a little of the shine off the Gladiators most convincing win of the year.
“Absolutely,” St. Francis head coach Greg Vaughan said, when asked if his team’s penalties took anything away from an otherwise dominating performance. “I think we had 19 penalties for 166 yards and that’s never good. A lot of them came, I think we had four pass interference penalties in a row there at the end of the half when they were trying to score. Then some other calls in there. We’ll go back and fix that. We came out with a lot more energy this week and a lot more passion this week. I think that translated into what you saw tonight.”
The Gladiators (4-2) amassed 388 yards of rushing on 59 carries — about six-and-a-half yards per carry. Byron Bullough led the way with 176 yards on the ground and four touchdowns on runs of 1, 35, 5 and 14 yards. Joe Trucco added 105 yards rushing for a St. Francis squad that scored on its first three possessions of the night as well as its last four.
“It felt great today, especially after last week (a loss to Boyne City),” said senior Joe Studzinski. “This week felt amazing. That first practice we had we were all fired up...we were flying around at each other. We were ready to go.”
That continued into the start of Friday night’s game. The Gladiators’ first three drives were between seven and 14 plays and each was 64 yards or longer as they marched relentlessly down the field. But even as St. Francis was building a 21-0 lead, all on touchdown runs by Bullough, it was struggling to avoid the penalty bug. It ultimately led to Charlevoix converting its only score right before the half on a 4-yard pass from Luke Klinger to Will Telgenhof. On the drive, St. Francis was flagged for one personal foul, a neutral zone infraction and four pass interference calls.
“We didn’t let it get to our heads,” said Studzinski. “We just accepted it and moved on from it. We knew there was going to be flags thrown both ways all night. We just decided to let it go by and go on to the next play.”
St. Francis’s defense did everything it needed to every other time it was on the field. The Rayders (1-5) were limited to 110 total yards and only three yards rushing. Klinger went 8-for-21 passing, with Nate Moon hauling in three of those passes for 68 yards. The Gladiators also forced two turnovers — fumbles recovered by Christian Gallagher and Luke O’Brien — and scored on both, first on Bullough’s final score of the night that put St. Francis ahead 28-7 in the third quarter and later on a 1-yard run by Michael Marsh with 2:41 left in the game.
Bullough showed elusiveness all night, slicing through the Charlevoix defense and breaking into the open field on several occasions.
“He’s been coming along the last couple of weeks,” Vaughan said of Bullough. “We know he’s a powerful runner and he can do those things (cut and make defenders miss). I think he’s seeing it a lot better. It’s something last year we talked about where he just wasn’t seeing things. I think he’s seeing a lot better and hitting it on one step and going north and south, taking guys on or making the cut when he needs to cut it.”
St. Francis’s other scores came on a 35-yard run in the third quarter by Lance Anderson and a 1-yard run early in the fourth by Jake Summers. St. Francis only attempted one pass on the night as it didn’t need to veer away from the running game to move the ball.
“It’s St. Francis football,” said Vaughan. “I would’ve liked to throw a little bit more. It’s kind of the situation we get into, and obviously after last week we needed to work with our O-line and our running backs continuing plays and drives. We did a better job with that.”