St. Francis dispatches Aurora Central Catholic
Soon, the St. Francis Spartans will make their first playoff appearance since 2014.
They just needed to make a quick business trip to Metro Suburban Blue foe Aurora Central Catholic's place first. The 35-minute bus ride from Wheaton to Aurora was worth it, as the Spartans handily took care of the Chargers 43-13 on a chilly Friday night to conclude its 2018 regular season run.
"We told them today this is the start of our playoff run," St. Francis coach Bob McMillen said after the game. "We need to start preparing and get to that point where we can start competing in the playoffs.
"I thought for the most part, I think for three quarters, we did well. We had a couple breakdowns here and there, but I think these guys came out and showed the way we wanted to play."
First-half big plays from the defense put the game firmly in the Spartans' grasp.
Up 7-0 after an early 9-yard touchdown catch from junior wide receiver Ryan French, the Spartans stopped Chargers running back Jeff Albert on fourth-and-1 at their own goal line on the last play of the first quarter to retain possession and maintain their touchdown advantage.
Less than six minutes later, the Spartans pounced on a fumble on a bad snap at the Chargers 13-yard line to give their offense another golden opportunity. Just over a minute later, junior back Jason Klank cashed in a 10-yard touchdown run.
A mere 11 seconds after the Spartans (7-2, 4-2) blocked a Chargers punt on ACC's next possession, Klank scampered into the end zone for a 17-yard touchdown, his second of the night.
With 33 seconds remaining in the half, the Spartans defense didn't need the Spartans offense to convert a big play on the defensive side of the ball into a score. A scrum of St. Francis tacklers mobbed ACC senior quarterback Jimmy Eul for a safety, raising the Spartans advantage to 30-7 at halftime.
"I think our defensive coaches do a great job of preparing these guys," McMillen said. "The biggest thing we're expecting from our defense is for those guys to do their jobs. I think for the most part tonight they did a good job of filling the gaps, getting to the ball, and when the ball was in the air we made plays on it."
Even when the Chargers got tricky, it was the same story. ACC started the second half with an onside kick that it recovered, one of three onside kicks they tried. The following play was a reverse that went for 18 yards. But then the Spartans clamped down again, recovering their second fumble of the game.
"They did a great job, that's a good football team over there and that's a good bunch of coaches," McMillen said when asked about the Chargers' trickery. "They made some adjustments that they saw and were able to capitalize on it and that's just a sign of a good football team."
The two teams played to a scoreless third quarter, and in the fourth quarter the Spartans outscored the Chargers by a touchdown to roll to a 30-point victory.
In its first year in the Metro Suburban Blue, the Spartans have finished with four wins and in third place in the standings.
"It's good football, it's really good football," McMillen said about life in the conference. "Every team we've faced, I thought competed well. I think we came in and played good football against some good football teams and this conference is going to get better and teams are going to get harder to play."
Perfect preparation then, because in the playoffs it's going to be all good football.