EAST LANSING – Week 1 of the high school football season hasn’t treated the East Lansing Trojans well in recent years, and they can blame St. Johns for that.
The Redwings were holding a two-game, opening-week winning streak against East Lansing, with a third win potentially coming in the Trojans’ own backyard Friday night. But East Lansing was able to put that issue to rest thanks to a well-rounded offensive attack, which was spearheaded by the quarterback-wide receiver combination of Hunter Helmic and Kentre Patterson.
The duo connected on the game’s first score when Helmic found Patterson for a 51-yard touchdown pass on the opening drive, and it eventually led to a 42-7 victory for the Trojans over their nonconference opponent for the first time since 2011.
“I haven’t beat them since I was in high school, so it’s good to start the season off 1-0,” Patterson said. “We thought we could make a run last year, but (I think) this is going to be the year.”
Patterson’s third-and-8 touchdown catch came within two minutes of the opening kick. St. Johns found itself within striking distance to tie the contest on its second drive, but a fumble by Jacob Ernst inside the Trojans’ 20-yard line handed the ball back over to East Lansing.
The Trojans took advantage of the miscue and put together a 79-yard drive that was capped by a 1-yard touchdown run from sophomore tailback Darian Holbrook. The score, which gave East Lansing a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter, was set up by a 42-yard pass from Helmic to junior wide receiver Blake Underwood.
“When you have explosive guys that can score on any given play it makes (the game) that much easier,” Helmic said. “I’ve been working with them for a couple of years now, so I just feel comfortable. I think we’ve finally gotten that groove.”
The Trojans’ defense forced two more three-and-outs following Holbrook’s score and received the ball with about three minutes remaining in the first half. Holbrook, once again, was able to finish off a lengthy drive with a 3-yard touchdown run to give his team a 21-0 lead. He set that score up with a 38-yard run just two plays prior.
St. Johns started the third quarter looking to cut into its deficit, but senior Cole Weber fumbled after receiving the kick and East Lansing recovered in Redwing territory. However, St. Johns’ defense was able to force a short Trojan punt that allowed senior Jack Bouck to return the ball to East Lansing’s 41-yard line.
St. Johns capitalized on the solid field position by jumping on the scoreboard for the first time when quarterback Ross Feldpausch found Jacob Dorn for a 6-yard touchdown pass on fourth and goal with 4:56 remaining in the third quarter.
The Trojans clinched the victory when Helmic scored on a 3-yard run with 8:16 remaining and Patterson intercepted Feldpausch on the next possession. Patterson caught a 39-yard pass from Helmic a few plays later and then senior tailback Cameron Jimenez capped the short drive with a 2-yard touchdown run to make it 35-7.
“We’ve lost a lot of guys. We have a young team, an inexperienced team, but they punched us in the mouth early,” said Feldpausch, a first-year starting quarterback, who is one of eight new offensive starters. “In the second half, we came out and scored once. I think we reacted better in the second half, but a couple of bad plays down the stretch, a few picks and a bad punt, we just made just made some plays (that come with) inexperience.
“We can only go up from here.”
Patterson, who is verbally committed to Illinois State, scored his second touchdown with 6:01 left in the game when he got another interception and returned it 30-plus yards.
Contact James L. Edwards III at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.