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66, 57, 31, 51.
Pretty good numbers if you're playing Bingo, exceptional numbers if you're talking about the distances that a running back's touchdown runs covered.
That was the length of St. Francis' James Butler's four TD runs in the first 17 minutes on Friday night at Plainfield South, which lit the fuse for a 43-20 victory for the Spartans (2-0) over the Cougars (1-1).
"I've still got a lot to prove," said Butler, a senior who sat out last season after transferring to St. Francis from Bartlett. "This was a big coming-out party for us tonight."
Like most great backs, Butler gave all the credit to his offensive line, form left to right, James Kalfas, John Vargyas, Cole Cunningham, Mike Anderbradt and George Turner, along with tight end Nate Zito.
"I've always been taught to never give up on a play and as long as the offensive line keeps blocking, I'll keep pushing and I tell them I'll meet you in the end zone," Butler said.
Butler's superlative night — he finished with 261 yards rushing — began on the game's second play when he bounced outside and ran 66 yards to paydirt down the sideline. That was followed by a 57-yarder with receiver Joe Connelly providing the big block on the edge. The third was a 31-yard burst up the middle one play after Steve Fassnacht recovered a fumbled punt. The final score was a 51-yard sprint in which he broke away from three would-be tacklers at the line then outran the Cougars secondary.
"We got him to the line of scrimmage, the offensive line did a good job tonight, but God gave him a lot of talent and he makes the most of it," said Spartans coach Greg Purnell.
Plainfield South's Josh Harris tried to do his best Butler impersonation with a 41-yard touchdown catch from Braden Lentini and a 75-yard-scoring run of his own after Butler's last score, but the closest the Cougars could get was 19-7 early in the second quarter.
The Spartans defense also made a statement as Kalfas' fumble recovery and 49-yard return to the Plainfield South 1-yard line set up Chris Smith's plunge that made it 19-0 after one quarter. Then, with the Spartans up 33-14 in the final moments of the first half, Vargyas stood Harris up at the 1-yard line on a fourth-down play that preserved the 19-point halftime advantage.
"That was huge," Butler said. "The defense really came out to play tonight against a good offense."
After a scoreless third quarter the Spartans got a 22-yard field goal from Ian Hart and 10-yard run from backup quarterback Clint Bobowski, before Rickey Pfister hauled in a 42-yard pass from Lentini with 4 seconds left to close the scoring.