The St. James football team hosted Perryville for their home opener on Friday, Aug. 31. The Tigers struggled with turnovers in the contest, which led to a close game at the half slipping away in a 28-12 loss.
The opening half was tight between St. James and Perryville. The Pirates were the only team to strike in the games' opening quarter, but that didn't slow down the Tigers. After being held off the scoreboard in the first, St. James took a lead late in the second thanks to a pair of touchdowns from Jaden Roark and Tyler Recker with Roark scoring through the air and Recker punching in a touchdown from the ground. Unfortunately, Roark wouldn't have a chance to make an impact after the half, as a big hit sidelined the Tiger receiver with a shoulder injury. Those two scores gave St. James a 12-7 lead after failing to convert on points after on both touchdowns. With a slim lead, the Tigers just needed to hold on for a few minutes to go into halftime out in front, but Perryville was able to find the end zone late to take a 14-12 lead into the half.
The Tigers went on to celebrate their 1698 team at halftime, but St. James couldn't find the big spark they needed after the break. St. James found themselves in a tight spot three minutes into the half, as an excellent Perryville punt pinned the Tigers on their own one-yard line. After a dropped pass on first down, Tate Whitener had to scramble to make something happen. Unfortunately, hit pass was snagged by a Perryville defender and easily carried into the end zone for a touchdown. This was Whitener's fourth interception of the game.
Despite the pick six, the Tigers had a few chanced in the quarter. First, Perryville muffed a St. James punt and Sage Gibson was able to recover the ball on the 23. That luck, however, didn't lead to any points. The Tigers then recovered a fumble with just under a minute to play in the third, but St. James went on to miss a 30 yard field goal a minute and a half into the fourth. Perryville added another touchdown with just under five minutes to play, stretching their lead out to 28-12. The Tigers elected to make a change late and put Nick Halbrook in at quarterback, but he couldn't spark a late run. Halbrook would go on to throw an interception with three minutes left to play. St. James lost by a final score of 28-12.
In the end, St. James had turnover problems all night long. Their quarterbacks combined for five interceptions in the contest with Whitener completing eight of his 28 passes for 148 yards, a touchdown and four interceptions. Halbrook added three completions in seven attempts for 26 yards and one pick.
"Well first thing is that we just have to trust each other and be better football players in the mental game," said head coach Josh Rodriguez. "Right now, we're not very focused and when it's learning time, its showing on Friday nights. We're going to have to fix that right away. We're going to have to spend a lot more time in meetings and drawing things up so kids know exactly where they're going, the quarterback knows exactly where the ball is supposed to be going and those things should clear up.
"I'm not terribly concerned about it long team," continued the St. James head coach. "But it's very concerning when we have two games in a row where we're throwing four-plus picks and we shouldn't be throwing any."
While coach Rodriguez tried Halbrook at quarterback late in the game, he stressed that Whitener is the team's starting quarterback.
"Nick's very capable and we're going to look at all of our options. Tate's struggling a little bit right now and we expected a little bit of struggle, but he's still our quarterback," said Rodriguez after the game.
Recker had another excellent game for the Tigers, carrying the ball 15 times for 102 yards and a touchdown, most of which came in the first half. Roark added a 67-yard touchdown, but was forced to the sideline for the second half. Grant Conway added another five catches for 62 yards.
Coach Rodriguez gives Perryville a lot of credit for just wearing the Tigers down for four quarters.
"They just grinded on us, especially at the start of the fourth quarter. Our kids were deflated and it's my job to make sure they're not that way," said the Tiger head coach. "Perryville, hats off to them. They threw it right at us, ran it right down our throat and made us like it and they played excellent defense."
The Tigers will look to bounce back when they host Hermann for a Four Rivers Conference game on Friday.