After facing off just two weeks ago, St. Philip and Lawrence came into Saturday’s Eight-player regional final with a pretty good idea of what to expect from each other.
The Fighting Tigers were hoping to repeat their success against the visiting Tigers at C.W. Post Field, but turnovers doomed the Red and White as Lawrence scored early and often to knock St. Philip out of the playoffs with a 58-28 defeat.
“They just outplayed us,” St. Philip head coach Dave Downey said. “They’re a good football team, and we talked about that. We had to come ready to play, and I don’t think we were ready.”
St. Philip lost the ball eight times in the contest — four on fumbles and four on interceptions.
“We turned the ball over too many times,” Downey said. “And you can’t do that in the playoffs against a good team like Lawrence.”
On an extremely windy day, there would have been no surprise to see mostly running plays from both teams, but Lawrence had other plans as quarterback Connor Murney threw for 416-yards and five touchdowns. Murney also added three rushing touchdowns, making him responsible for eight of the nine scores for his team.
“My performance is strictly made by the other guys on the field,” said Murney. “We had receivers making great catches and the line kept me protected all day. It was a great all-around win.”
The scoring got started right away, with a 50-yard strike from Murney to Matt Cammire. That would not be the only time the two connected in the game, as Cammire caught four touchdown passes before it was all said and done.
A quick response from St. Philip with a 19-yard touchdown pass from Brendan Gausselin to Kevin Greenman put the score at 7-6 in favor of St. Philip.
At this point, the game looked as though it would be a high-scoring shootout, much like the first meeting between the teams when St. Philp held on for a 54-40 victory. Lawrence wasted no time putting those thoughts to rest, as they would score the next 26 points, all before halftime.
An dazzling one-handed, behind-the-back grab by Cammire resulted in a 64-yard score to put Lawrence back in the lead at 12-7, which was quickly followed by a four-yard touchdown run by Derek Gribler.
Murney ran into the end zone from 8-yards out early in the second quarter, and then hooked up with Cammire once again less than a minute later, this time for 40 yards, putting the Tigers at a 32-7 advantage.
It looked as though that would be the halftime score, but an interception by St. Philip’s David Downey with :07 remaining in the half led to a 62-yard touchdown from Alex Doyle to Hunter Haley as the clock expired, giving the Fighting Tigers a glimmer of hope going into the locker room down 32-14.
Again, St. Philip’s hopes were dashed early in the third quarter with another Murney to Cammire touchdown, this time for 54 yards.
On the ensuing drive, St. Philip lost the first of their four second-half fumbles on their own 24-yard line, which quickly turned into points for Lawrence on a 24-yard pass from Murney to Bradley Beeching on the next play, increasing the lead to 46-14.
But St. Philip wasn’t ready to throw in the towel. A 54-yard touchdown pass from Gausselin to Haley closed the gap slightly.
The Fighting Tigers attempted an onside kick and very nearly recovered it, but instead Lawrence took over and scored yet again, this time on a 4-yard QB draw by Murney.
St. Philip turned the ball over four times in the next four minutes of the game, and with 11:04 remaining in the game, they gave up their final touchdown on another QB keeper by Murney from 2-yards out.
With 3:30 remaining in the game, Brayden Darr scored one final touchdown for St. Philip from 70-yards out.
Cammire had seven catches for 244 yards to go with his four touchdown receptions for Lawrence.
Lawrence, playing its first season of Eight-player football, will face Peck in the state semifinals. Peck defeated Lawrence earlier in the season, 61-38.
Haley led the St. Philip offense with 117 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Gausselin finished with 97 passing yards and Darr finished with 93-yards on the ground.
Defensively, St. Philip’s Trevor Searls had 12 tackles and Isaac Cloward had 11. Darr had nine tackles, a sack and an interception for St. Philip.
“As a whole I think we had an excellent season, and it’s unfortunate that it has to end with a loss,” said Downey. “We’ve got a lot of kids coming back, and I think this loss will motivate them for next year.”