Tigers overcome Wildcats, heat, 12-6.
A year ago the St. James High School football team had a scoring-fest against the Cuba Wildcats in the neighboring communities’ season-opener.
On Friday night, the Tigers had to win a defensive battle.
Throwing a shutout for the first three quarters, St. James was able to squeak out just enough offense to open 2014 with a 12-6 non-conference victory on a sweltering Friday evening at Cuba High School.
“We knew (Cuba) had a lot of experience back,” said St. James head coach Greg Harlan. “It was a game of ups and downs. We felt like we had some missed opportunities to get some points on the board.
“But anytime you can get that first win...it’s a good thing.”
The heat was the topic of discussion entering the game, which was moved back an hour due to the anticipated temperature. And Harlan said both clubs appeared to come out of the contest well as far as the heat was concerned.
“I thought both teams handled it well,” Harlan said. “A very small handful of players were cramping up. I was really proud of the way our guys battled through the heat. Same with their players.”
What little offense was generated on the St. James end came from the combo of junior quarterback Brett Karnes to senior wideout Jake Money.
Karnes completed five of 12 passes for 153 yards - all five completions going to Money. And both Tiger touchdowns came on Karnes-to-Money passes.
At the 11:00 mark of the second period the Tigers snapped a scoreless tie when Karnes found Money, who broke away for a 78-yard TD reception. The Tiger PAT attempt failed.
The 6-0 score stood at halftime.
St. James made it 12-0 in the third period when Karnes hit Money with a 20-yard touchdown strike. The two-point conversion rushing attempt failed.
Cuba got its lone score with 4:30 remaining to play on a seven-yard run.
In addition to his 153 receiving yards and two TDs, Money also intercepted a pair of Wildcat passes and made six solo tackles and one assist on defense from his safety position.
“To this point that was probably the best game of his career,” Harlan said of Money. “He really had an outstanding football game on both sides of the football.”
St. James finished with 293 yards of total offense, with Karnes leading the ground game with 49 yards on 18 attempts and senior running back Garrett Ubben adding 45 on 11 carries.
“We had the ball inside their 20 three or four other times,” Harlan said. “Once we fumbled at the one going in. Another time we got the ball to the five and had a penalty and got backed up. We could easily have scored more points. It was very frustrating. We’ve got to learn to finish drives.”
However, Harlan was glad his defense stepped it up.
“One of our goals this year was to get better defensively,” he said. “We’ve got more experience back on the defensive side of the ball and I thought it showed. The heat kind of wore us down. But everyone in the state had to deal with that.”
Senior linebacker Cameron Orlando paced St. James in tackles with eight solos and one assists while lineman Marcus Bradshaw added seven and one. Senior linebacker Seth Thompson recovered two fumbles.
St. James is now set to host Houston in another non-conference game this Friday (7 p.m.) It will be the official field dedication of the new St. James High Multi-Purpose Field.
The annual Tiger Community Tailgate Party will begin at 5 p.m. outside the stadium on Friday. There will be a field dedication ceremony at 6 p.m. on the new synthetic turf.
The score by periods:
St. James 0 6 6 0-12
Cuba 0 0 0 6- 6
The scoring plays:
St. James: Money 78-yard pass from Karnes, kick fails.
St. James: Money 20-yard pass from Karnes, conversion fails.
Cuba: 7-yard run, conversion fails.
St. James Individual Leaders
Rushing: Karnes 18 for 49, Ubben 11 for 45, Lynch 7 for 36, Money 3 for 10.
Passing: Karnes 5-12-153-0.
Receiving: Money 5 for 153.
Tackles: Orlando 8 (solo)-1 (assist); Bradshaw 7-1, Ubben 4-0, Money 6-1, McCarthy 5-1, Thompson 5-1, Glidden 1-3, Sieber 0-3.
Interceptions: Money 2.
Fumble Recoveries: Thompson 2.
Punting: Bartle 3-46.0.