St. Philip got revenge for a 50-14 Homecoming loss earlier this month by defeating the Waldron Spartans when it counted most – in the first round of the 8-man football playoffs on Friday night.
The Tigers trailed 20-14 deep into the third quarter, but scored 28 unanswered points to run away with a 42-20 victory at C.W. Post Stadium.
Special teams played a large role in the victory as the Tigers thwarted a Waldron fake punt in the fourth quarter, came up with two fumble recoveries on kickoffs and went 7-7 on extra point attempts on the foot of freshman kicker David Downey.
Both teams play in the Southwest Michigan 8-man Football League and it was the third time they met this year. The Tigers won the first game 34-28, but on Oct. 4 Waldron’s Tanner Cooper rushed for over 300 yards and seven touchdowns to beat the Tigers 50-14.
“When we lost 50-14 three weeks ago at Homecoming, we started putting together a game plan right then to stop (Cooper),” St. Philip head coach Dave Downey said. “And although we didn’t stop him completely, we contained him enough to win the game.”
Cooper finished the game with 178 yards rushing and two scores.
The Tigers worked harder than they needed to on their first possession of the game. St. Philip racked up five offensive penalties for 55 yards, but was still able to come up with enough big plays to stick it in the end zone for a one-yard Jon Niland touchdown run and a 7-0 lead.
St. Philip junior quarterback Alex Doyle accounted for an unusual 103 yards of offense on the Tigers first drive as he broke off several long runs and completed two passes for 40 yards.
Doyle finished the game with 156 yards rushing and 135 yards passing.
Late in the first quarter Waldron scored a touchdown and two-point conversion, but Doyle answered right back with a 20-yard touchdown run as the Tigers reclaimed the lead, 14-8.
St. Philip held on to its lead until 2:20 left in the second quarter when Cooper scored his second touchdown of the game on a 20-yard scamper.
The Spartans elected to go for two, but St. Philip sophomore linebacker Kevin Greenman’s tackle in the backfield kept the score tied at 14. Greenman was all over the field for the Tigers as he led the team with 15 tackles in the game. He also had 49 yards rushing with a score.
In the second half, Waldron got the ball first and made the most of it.
A 40-yard run by Cooper set up Levi Long’s 11-yard touchdown run, giving the Spartans a 20-14 lead. Again, they were unable to score on their two-point conversion attempt.
Following a defensive stand inside its own 15-yard line midway through the third quarter, the St. Philip offense got hot.
Doyle connected with sophomore wide receiver Hunter Haley on a 61-yard bomb, setting up a highlight-reel 11-yard touchdown run by Niland. Niland’s score with 3:30 left knotted the score at 20 and Downey’s extra point gave the Tigers a 21-20 lead that they would never look back from.
Niland finished the game with 135 yards rushing and three scores.
A 13-yard touchdown pass from Doyle to Rich Yacovoni with 8:00 left in the game gave St. Philip a more comfortable 28-20 cushion. Greenman and Niland touchdowns late in the fourth quarter added to the Tigers’ lead.
The Tigers play the winner of Marine City Cardinal Mooney and Portland St. Patrick in the second round of the playoffs. Marine City Cardinal Mooney and Portland St. Patrick play today. St. Philip is 0-2 against St. Patrick this season, but coach Downey believes with the right preparation, the Tigers are ready for an upset.
“This week was probably our best week of practice we’ve had all season. The kids were really focused and serious,” he said.
“Practice was just great, the effort was there and they came to play tonight. So we have to do the same thing next week.”