Dutchmen edge St. James to set district title rematch

Will Johnson

ST. JAMES — Revenge.

That was the main goal Friday night at a very cold St. James High School during the MSHSAA Class 3, District 3 football semifinal game between the visiting Owensville Dutchmen and host Tigers.

Nearly seeing a 35-21 third-quarter lead disappear, Dale Long’s Dutchmen squad held on for a 35-34 win over St. James to avenge a previous 46-32 loss to the Tigers back in week four of the regular season.

“Tonight was a hard-fought win,” Long said. “We played really well against a very good St. James football team.”

During the first six minutes of the game, a repeat of the 80-75 game from six years ago appeared possible.

St. James broke the scoreless tie on a Grant Conway 12-yard touchdown run giving the Tigers an early 6-0 lead after the missed extra point at the 10:02 mark of the first quarter.

“I felt like our kids played hard,” St. James head football coach Greg Harlan said. “We did a lot of good things throughout the game.”

Just over two minutes later, Owensville had an answer on their opening offensive possession.

Driving 65 yards in six plays, it was capped by a Wyatt Ellis to Dustin Faragher 35-yard TD pass with 7:56 for the opening quarter.

Dustin finished the night with eight catches for 109 yards receiving and a touchdown.

After St. James was flagged for being off sides on the initial extra point, OHS decided to go for two.

Tanner Rector ran the ball into the end zone giving the Dutchmen an 8-6 lead.

Barely a minute later, the Tigers answered to reclaim the lead.

Senior quarterback Ryan Harlan hoked up with Conway on a 63-yard TD pass with 6:42 for the first quarter. Harlan’s pass to Carter Keeney for two points gave St. James a 14-8 advantage in Phelps County.

On the ensuing kickoff, Dutchmen senior Sean Irwin returned it 45 yards all the way out to the St. James 36-yard line.

Four plays later, Ellis went back to the air hooking up with Rector on a 3-yard TD pass tying the game at 14-14 after the missed two-point conversion with 5:27 for the quarter.

Wyatt threw for 221 yards on 17-32 passing with a pair of scores. He also rushed for 186 yards on 25 carries.

Seeing the offense dominate the game thus far, Owensville’s defense delivered late in the first period.

Forcing St. James into a fourth-and-nine situation, Dutchmen senior lineman Bryce Mistler sacked Harlan giving Owensville the ball back on their 45-yard line.

“I got around the center and I just found the quarterback right by me,” Mistler said. “I just happened to be in the right place at the right time on that play.”

Started by a pair of Ellis to Faragher pass completions, the drive ended when Rector found the end zone on a 10-yard TD run at the 1:18 mark of the first.

“St. James wasn’t really letting us throw over the top Friday night,” Dustin Faragher said. “Hitches were open and we took advantage.”

River-West Derby’s first extra point of the game put OHS in front 21-14 after one quarter.

Driving into St. James territory on their first two second-quarter drives, the Owensville offense came up empty with no points after turning the ball over on downs.

Just beyond the midway point of the second quarter, Gunnar Seams capped an 80-yard St. James drive with a 58-yard TD run at the 4:06 mark of the half. Cole Petty’s extra point tied the game at 21-21.

OHS’ next drive on offense nearly untied the game.

Trekking all the way to the 1-yard line at the end of the half, Owensville was turned away by the host Tigers leaving the halftime score tied at 21-21.

Opening the second half, St. James tried some trickery.

Attempting an onside kick, Dutchmen senior Chance Blaine recovered the kick giving the OHS offense excellent field position at their 48-yard line.

Following a 45-yard run by Rector, the drive nearly ended in disaster three plays later.

On third-and-goal from the one, Ellis appeared on his way to a touchdown before he fumbled the football.

Fortunately for OHS, senior Quintin Benson was in the right place at the right time to recover the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.

West-Derby’s kick put the Dutchmen back in front 28-21 at the 10:50 mark of the third quarter.

After Aaron Budnik’s ensuing kickoff went into the end zone for a touchback, the defense kept the momentum rolling for Owensville.

Camren McQueen forced a St. James fumble on their first play from scrimmage in the third quarter that Richard Nelms wound up recovering. Nelms had a team-high nine tackles to pace the Dutchmen defense. McQueen also added six total tackles and three tackles for loss for Owensville.

Taking over on the Tiger 15-yard line, Rector found the end zone for the third time on a 2-yard TD run just :33 ticks after Benson scored.

West-Derby’s third extra point of the night pushed the Dutchmen lead to 35-21 with 10:17 remaining in the third quarter.

After trading turnovers on downs with St. James, Owensville saw the Tigers cut into their lead before the end of the third quarter.

Conway broke through for an 83-yard TD run at the 2:25 mark of the third. Petty’s kick pulled the Tigers to within seven of OHS after three quarters, 35-28.

“Our kids continued to play through adversity and I’m proud of them for that,” Harlan said.

Turning St. James over on downs with 7:54 left in the game, Owensville turned it back over to the Tigers two plays later on a fumble with 7:03 remaining.

Seven plays and 65 yards later, Harlan found Cade Snitker on a 16-yard TD pass with 4:47 left.

St. James’ missed extra point left the Dutchmen with a slim 35-34 lead.

“Sometimes you love kickers, sometimes you hate them,” Long said. River (West-Derby) hit all of his extra points tonight and that was a big difference in the game.”