It's always hard to beat a good team twice, even if both games are on your home turf. That proved to be the case when St. James hosted Owensville for their District Semi-Final matchup on Friday, Oct. 27. After beating the Dutchmen 46-32 in the regular season, the Tigers made one too many mistakes in the rematch, falling 35-34.
St. James got out to a great start on Friday night, as Ryan Harlan flipped a shovel pass out to Grant Conway for a 12-yard touchdown two minutes into the contest, but Owensville responded quickly with a touchdown pass of their own just two minutes later when Wyatt Ellis hit Dustin Faragher for a 34-yard touchdown down the sideline. They converted for two points to take an early 8-6 lead. But St. James came right back on another touchdown pass to Grant Conway, this time coming on a 64-yard bomb down the middle of the field, and a two point conversion gave the Tigers a 14-8 lead. The point heavy first half continued with another touchdown pass from Ellis, this time a three-yard toss to Tanner Rector, and a failed two point attempt locked the game at 14. Owensville was able to score again before the quarter ended on a 10-yard run by Rector to take a 21-14 lead.
Then the defenses started to step up. St. James scored the only touchdown of the quarter when Gunnar Seams turned the corner on the run to the outside for a 59-yard score. That would be the only points of the quarter, as the Tigers couldn't connect on a series of long passes, a plague that would carry on for the rest of the game. The strong winds that were coming and going throughout the night made it tough to gauge how much to put behind a deep ball. Despite the low scoring quarter, St. James and Owensville went into the half locked in a tie at 21 all.
Ownesville came out of the half and quickly scored on a one-yard run from Ellis, before taking advantage of some misfortune from St. James. Harlan tried to flip a ball to Seams on an option play, but the ball bounced away from the Tiger running back. Seams tried to scoop up the ball instead of diving on it and Owensville was able to recover on the Tiger 35-yard line. That led to another quick score for Owensville, as Rector punched one in from two yards out to give the Dutchmen a 35-21 lead.
"Any time you have a mistake you have to battle through it," said head coach Greg Harlan of the fumble that set up the second Owensville touchdown of the half.
And battle through it, they did. While the Tigers could've packed it in after allowing two quick scores, they buckled down. Owensville didn't score for the remainder of the contest and St. James was able to close the gap before the end of the third. Harlan was able to flip a pass to Conway on an end-around and the track star took it from there, going 83 yards to the house for a touchdown, cutting the deficit to 35-28. St. James nearly added another touchdown earlier in the quarter, but a 38-yard score from Seams was called back for a hold and the Tigers were shut down on a fourth and goal later in the drive and St. James went into the fourth quarter trailing by seven points.
The Tiger defense continued to stand strong in the fourth, as they picked up a fumble on the 35 with seven minutes to play in the game. St. James was able to work the ball to the 15 with 4:47 left in the contest, but they were forced to go for it on fourth and three. St. James then ran a play action pass and Harlan was able to find Cade Snitker sneaking across the field in the end zone for a touchdown. St. James needed the point after to tie it, but Cole Petty's kick went wide. St. James was given a second chance on a penalty, but the second kick also went wide left and left the Tigers behind by a single point.
Trailing by a point, St. James needed a stop, but that stop wouldn't come. Owensville was able to get a few first downs to run off the remaining time on the clock before kneeling it down to seal the 35-34 win over the Tigers.
Harlan passed for 216 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for another 42 yards. Conway had a phenomenal game at receiver, catching seven passes for a staggering 192 yards and three touchdowns. Snitker added three catches for 61 yards and a touchdown. Seams also had a stellar day on the ground with 127 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.
Nick Wilson led the team in tackles with 14, while also recovering the fumble in the fourth quarter. Randy Malloy, Cort Petty and Drake Ortiz each added 10 tackles.
While the loss ends the Tigers' season, coach Harlan couldn't be more proud of his team, especially the seniors that he's coached for the last 10 years.
"I just felt like our kids have played well all year and they've given us everything they've ever had," said Harlan after the game. "The amount of effort that they've given us all year long and I don't just mean during the season, because when you get to the season everybody plays hard, but I'm talking about stuff that started during the summer months and the amount of effort they gave during that time period to get themselves ready. That, to me, is almost more impressive, what we got accomplished this summer to get ready for this season. They were reaping the benefits of what they got done this summer. This team had a lot of talent on it, it's been a fun year.
"It's been fun," continued Harlan talking about his senior class. "I've had the opportunity to coach them for 10 years and I think they have earned any recognition they would get throughout the season. They've worked hard and they've done everything we asked of them. That's all you can ask for kids is to come out and try their hardest."