BY J. PATRICK EAKEN | MIRROR SPORTS — Anthony Wayne compiled 337 yards rushing and held on to defeat St. Francis, 22-13, at The University of Toledo Glass Bowl last Friday.
Senior running back Ezra Scott accounted for 206 of those yards on 31 carries (6.6 per carry) and senior quarterback Mason Alberts covered 115 yards on 15 attempts (7.7).
AW junior running back Charles Renninger contributed with another 16 yards on three carries. Each had one rushing touchdown.
“Ezra and Charles Renninger both – I feel like Renninger has a different speed when he gets in there,” said AW coach Anthony Brungard.
“Ezra has turned into a bit of a patient runner and then you have Charles, who goes in there and gets to the hole at 100 mph, so they are a nice complement to each other.”
All three backs had help from an offensive line that was providing holes a truck could drive through.
“Our offensive line – there was one point in the fourth quarter where we just thought we’ve just got to stay on these guys because we’re pushing them downfield. That takes a special group of guys to do that,” Brungard said.
Scott said he has had to learn to be patient and follow his blockers.
“In practice we do so much runs and stuff, so I know what they are going to do before they even do it and they know what I’m going to do, too,” Scott said. “Our linemen did absolutely great tonight.
“So did our wide receivers – they were able to get the perimeter blocks, too, and not only did our linemen do a great job, they did a great job at the secondary level.”
Scott persevered even though he lost two fumbles early in the game. He was ready to own up to it after the win.
“I did have my fair share of mistakes,” he said, “but I had a lot of my teammates and coaches give me positive encouragement, telling me to forget about it.”
The Generals will stay perfect at 3-0 entering this Friday’s Northern Lakes League opener against Northview (2-1) at Schaller Memorial Stadium. St. Francis suffered its first loss of the season and fell to 2-1.
All three wins were over Three Rivers Athletic Conference teams, which Brungard hopes will bode his team well entering NLL play.
The AW-St. Francis contest began a lot like the Generals’ previous contest against visiting St. John’s – like AW was going to win in a blowout. The Generals had routed the visiting Titans, 56-14, one week earlier.
What kept AW from rolling all over the Knights were four turnovers – three lost fumbles and an interception. Fortunately, the Knights lost two fumbles and were intercepted, also.
Brungard says the entire week had been about perseverance – even the bus ride to the Glass Bowl, which was held up by construction, and then power went out due to lightning storms, affecting four stoplights.
“It’s just one of those things,” Brungard said, “but our theme is to just ‘push the rock.’ We’ve been telling kids all year that when adversity is pushing down on you, you just keep pushing back. I felt like we just responded that way tonight and this week.”
Junior linebacker Adam Miller, who led the team in tackles, said, “It looked a little rough, but we turned it around. We talked to coach at halftime about the game plan and we bounced back.”
On AW’s second possession, Scott scored from a yard out with 7:42 remaining and senior Zain Hamid added the conversion kick to put the Generals up 7-0, capping a five-play, 80-yard drive.
After St. Francis senior Todd Bumphis fumbled the ensuing kickoff, AW special teams player Ty Grooms recovered at the Knights’ 3-yard line.
Alberts scored on the next play, putting his team up 13-0 after a missed conversion kick with 7:34 remaining in the first half.
The Knights managed one first down before having to punt and Alberts engineered a drive from the AW 37 to the St. Francis 8 in eight plays.
When it looked as if the Generals could go up 21-0 near the end of the first quarter, Scott lost the handle on the football, but it wasn’t just a turnover.
Knights senior linebacker Joe Fudacz made the tackle and strip and senior outside linebacker Joe Krause picked up the football and ran the distance, 83 yards, to pay dirt.
After another missed kick, what could have been a three-touchdown lead for AW suddenly was just a 13-6 lead as the first stanza ended.
The momentum switched and suddenly Anthony Wayne’s offense sputtered, too, as St. Francis held the Generals to a three-and-out. The Knights’ next possession resulted in three first downs, but they also had to punt.
AW took over at its own 20 and four plays later, Alberts fumbled and it was recovered by senior outside linebacker Teddy Walker at the St. Francis 49.
Four plays later, sophomore running back Steven McCoy scored from 2 yards out and senior Jarrett Puckett’s kick tied the game at 13-all with 3:07 left in the half.
Alberts, Renninger and Scott began another drive from the Anthony Wayne 20, toting the rock play after play until they faced a fourth-and-9 at the St. Francis 10.
Hamid, a senior soccer player, closed the deal by successfully converting a 32-yard field goal with 16 seconds to go in the half to give the Generals a 16-13 lead.
The turnover-marred game did not change in the second half, as a hit by AW’s 6-foot-3, 290-pound defensive tackle Josh Raimonde jarred the ball loose from Bumphis and senior safety Ben Wyrick recovered at the Knights’ 47.
Eight plays later, Renninger scored from 4 yards out, giving the Generals a 22-13 lead with 8:31 remaining in the third quarter.
From that point on, both teams consistently mounted drives, but neither was able to put points on the board as AW held on.
Giving the Generals a big push on defense was linebacker Adam Miller, who was all over the field with 12 tackles.
Miller chooses to wear No. 8 – a credit to former AW linebacker Ben Allen, who now plays at Division I Bucknell University.
“It’s funny, talking to Adam personally, you don’t realize the work that he puts in. He wore No. 8 this year – he wanted to pick Ben Allen’s number,” Brungard said.
“I asked him, ‘Why do you want to pick Ben Allen’s number?’ He said, ‘because I watched him. I see him as a mentor in my life and I want to be able to play like him.’ I think he’s starting to show that.”
“I picked Ben Allen because he’s my role model and I love his work ethic,” Miller explained. “He’s just a dog and I want to be like him.
“I love it, it’s my favorite position, linebacker. Having Bryce (Boyer) and Dawson (Frederick) by my side, making plays, it’s a team effort.”
Boyer, a senior defensive end, had eight tackles and Frederick, a senior cornerback, had five. Senior safety Jacob Potkanowicz added six tackles and an interception.
AW finished with 359 yards of total offense, averaging 6.6 per play, to St. Francis’ 210 and the Generals had 25 first downs to the Knights’ 14.
In addition to carrying the ball for more than 100 yards, Alberts threw the ball five times, completing three passes for 22 yards.
Potkanowicz, at wide receiver, made two catches for 13 yards and junior tight end Thomas “T.J.” Winston had one reception for 9 yards.
For St. Francis, junior quarterback Dayven Kizer, the younger brother of NFL quarterback DeShone Kizer (Central Catholic and Notre Dame), completed 9-of-13 passes for 81 yards.
Bumphis caught three passes for 21 yards, Domo Austin had two for 11 yards and Charles Green (16 yards), Jerome Morgan (16), Denim Truss (13) and Andrew Enright (four) had one catch each.
McCoy was St. Francis’ leading rusher, carrying the ball 11 times for 69 yards and Chevell Williams had six carries for 25 yards
Antwain Willis had eight carries for 16 yards, Bumphis had two for 16 yards and Jamani Russell had three for 10 yards for the Knights.