The St. James football team hosted Cuba for their season opener on Friday, Aug. 18. The Tigers scored early and they scored often, as they routed the Wildcats 60-0.
If you blinked, you might've missed a touchdown in the first half for St. James. Senior quarterback Ryan Harlan got things going less than two minutes into the game with a 31-yard run for his first score of the game. Three minutes later, Harlan flipped a pass to junior Grant Conway on an end around and the State-medaling track star sprinted down the left sideline 76 yards for the Tigers' second score of the game. After two more minutes passed, Harlan fired a screen pass to Jaden Roark, who carried the ball 73 yards for another long touchdown.
The Tigers kept rolling when their defense snagged their first turnover on an interception by Michael Higginbotham before yet another rushing touchdown from Harlan with four minutes still remaining in the opening quarter. St. James ended the quarter with a 26-0 lead, but they didn't stop there.
Harlan didn't slow his pace in the second quarter, as he registered his third rushing touchdown after three minutes ran off the clock. Then midway through the quarter, Gunnar Seams punched in hist first touchdown from the one-yard line. Harlan went on to add his fourth and fifth rushing touchdowns, bringing his total for the game to seven, before the half ended and St. James went into halftime with a 53-0.
The backups played most of the second half for St. James and scored one more touchdown on a 13-yards run by Zach Koons. The Tiger starters went back in for the final snap of the game to cap off their 60-0 win. In the end, Harlan ran for 104 yards and passed for another 231. He tallied a total of seven touchdowns in the win. His two passing touchdowns went to his two leading receivers. Conway ended the way with three catches for 107 yards and a score, while Roark made his one catch count for his 73-yard touchdown. Seams ended the day with 85 yards on 12 carries and a touchdown.
"Any time you get your first win, you feel good about it," said head coach Greg Harlan after the game. "I felt like, in the first half especially, we came out really motivated and we did a lot of things right and made very few mistakes and that really was the difference in the game between this year and last year."
Harlan said that penalties were an issue last season when they faced off against Cuba, but St. James also took advantage of a lot of mistakes that Cuba made. The Tigers blocked several punts and ended the game with four interceptions and two recovered fumbles. Ty Lewis, who also led the team in tackles with six, intercepted one of those passes, while Higginbotham, Roark and Harlan each had one of their own. Josh Dean and Nick Wilson each picked up fumbles.
"I can't say enough good things. Our offensive line looked outstanding and our playmakers in space made guys miss and ran the field and good things happened," said Harlan. "Defensively, I was a little apprehensive about it. They've got a really good quarterback and some good skill guys. We were able to get into a groove and coach Snitker did a nice job of getting our guys in good positions and I think defensively we got good pressure on the quarterback, but then our D backs came through and knocked down some passes, broke up some plays, had (four) interceptions. All around it was a solid game us."
The Tigers will look to keep a hot hand after their 1-0 start when they head down to Houston on Friday, Aug. 25.