Larkin football coach Dragan Teonic accurately summed up his team's dismal beginning to Friday night's Upstate Eight Conference River Division clash against St. Charles East.
"Terrible -- awful start," said Teonic, whose team (3-4, 1-3) dropped a 35-0 decision to the host Saints (5-2, 2-2) at Norris Stadium. "From there, everything kind of rolled against us. They outclassed us in every way. They were a better football team than us tonight -- no question about it."
St. Charles East senior linebacker Abe Swanson recovered a fumble on the Royals' first play from scrimmage inside the red zone.
Six plays later, senior center Alex Pahadi scored the first touchdown of his varsity career as he recovered a fumble in the end zone for a 7-0 Saints lead with 8:39 left in the opening quarter.
"I thought our defense set the tone with that early turnover," said Saints coach Bryce Farquhar.
With sophomore quarterback B.J. Crossen making his second varsity start for the injured Clayton Isbell, the short-field touchdown was exactly what the Saints needed early.
"We were really emphasizing on hitting the mesh point early and trying to get them off their game a little bit," said Griffin, who had 5 tackles for loss and a sack. "It's good for our offense, too, getting B.J. (Crossen) in there with good field position and giving him some confidence. That first turnover was absolutely huge."
Crossen's (12 carries, 117 yards) game took off from there as he scored the Saints' next 3 touchdowns on runs covering 25, 17 and 26 yards, respectively, with the latter extending the lead to 28-0 after 3 quarters.
"I felt a lot more confidence out there," said Crossen. "The offensive line and the backs did a great job blocking for me. (Receiver) Josh Luedtke made two big blocks that set me free and they were walk-in touchdowns."
"It's just seeing the varsity speed and being able to read and react to it," Farquhar said of Crossen. "It's the confidence. That's the biggest thing -- him developing that confidence. I was proud of the job he did tonight."
Sammy Scialabba capped the night's scoring with a 3-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter -- all part of the Saints' 351-yard rushing attack.
"We had a hard time getting anything going offensively," Teonic said of the Royals' 79 yards of total offense, "and we had a hard time stopping them."
Swanson (2), Yalon Rogers (2), Drew Conn, Nico Piaskowy, Patrick Gerkin and Ronan Macaluso also added tackles for loss for the Saints' stingy defense that limited Larkin's Kindrel Morris to 34 yards on 20 carries in the sloppy conditions.
"I think it's definitely advantage defense especially when you have a shifty offense like Larkin has," said Griffin. "These are the games you remember -- they're so fun playing in the mud."