For the second time this season, CAAC Red combatants St. Johns and Owosso had a low-scoring battle with abundant defense and scarce rushing yardage between the tackles.
And for the second straight time on Friday night, the Redwings prevailed in a tight contest.
St. Johns got two touchdown runs from junior running back T.J. Havens and were able to drain the clock in the final three minutes to secure a 21-13 win over the Trojans in a Division 3 district championship game.
The Redwings (8-3) will play at DeWitt in a Division 3 regional final next week
It was the sixth time St. Johns (8-3) has won a game by a touchdown or less, including a previous 14-13 win over Owosso on Sept. 14.
“They seem to have resolve and this winter we talked about the one thing I thought this team had after losing a lot of firepower last year. I said, ‘But you guys have resolve. You work hard, you don’t quit’ and they don’t,” St. Johns coach Dave Mariage said . “I think that’s what gets you to pull it out. You believe.”
St. Johns forced three Owosso turnovers. The first was a muffed punt in the first quarter that set St. Johns up inside the Owosso 30.
Havens then put the Redwings on the board first with a 21-yard touchdown run.
The Trojans (7-4) countered with a 5-yard run by senior back Brad Rigoulot in the second to tie the game at 7-7. But St. Johns regained the lead on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Bryce LaBar to Shayne Krumm with just more than two minutes to play in the first half.
A 72-yard run by LaBar set St. Johns up with first-and-goal to begin the second half, and Havens tallied his second touchdown run with a 1-yard plunge to put the Redwings up 21-7.
Then the St. Johns defense took over.
“They’ve been playing hard all season,” senior linebacker Chad Lewis said after forcing one Owosso fumble and recovering another. “One of our goals coming into this season was just restoring St. Johns defense, and I think we’ve done that.”
Owosso had second-and-goal from the St. Johns 1-yard line in the third quarter, but the Trojans were stacked up three times, includi”ng two quarterback sneaks, to give the ball back over to the Redwings.
“We know they like the sneak. They sneak it in on everybody and they have huge success and for us to stop it how many times we did tonight was incredible,” Mariage said.
“We practiced that all week. We’ve been practicing the quarterback sneaks and throughout the game we figured out their calls and we just saw it coming and we stuffed them,” Lewis said.
Lewis caused an Owosso fumble that was recovered by the Redwings in St. Johns territory on the last play of the third quarter. And while Owosso pulled to within 21-13 on a 2-yard run by senior Robert Geoghegan in the fourth, the Trojans couldn’t get the ball back as St. Johns churned out the last 31/2 minutes.
“We didn’t get a lot of yards. I’m sure they outgained us again,” Mariage said. “We’ve been in that situation a lot where we have not moved the ball and I think that was critical getting those two first downs. “
Owosso will have to settle for the most wins the program has had since 2001 and its first ever district final appearance.
“It’s a great experience for our community and for our players and it’s neat. And hopefully we’ll be able to come back ,” Owosso coach Tom Harkema said.