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Passing game, defense spark St. Paul for key road win

By JOSH BURRIS • Sep 8, 2017 at 11:18 PM

TIFFIN — St. Paul’s dominant rushing attack was finally slowed down by Tiffin Calvert Friday night.

But despite holding the Flyers to just 169 rushing yards, the Senecas had trouble slowing the passing game of St. Paul (3-0) in a 23-7 loss at Frost-Kalnow Stadium.

Flyers quarterback Nick Lukasko was 6-of-9 passing for 151 yards and a touchdown. He made his passes count as all of them were either a first down or a touchdown — and none of them were less than 15 yards.

St. Paul coach John Livengood had high praise for his quarterback’s performance.

“Nick has been very efficient all year, took advantage of his opportunities and had some big plays for us,” Livengood said. “When you’re not able to run the ball, you better be able to pass, and Nick did a nice job at that tonight.”

Part of the reason for the down night in the running game was an injury to starting running back Eli Meyer. Her had to exit the game in the second quarter and did not return.

Senior Thane Crabbs was the Flyers’ leading rusher with 84 yards on 14 carries. Noah Good ran for 37 yards on 11 carries and also had a catch for 27 yards.

Livengood also gave credit to Calvert’s defense for slowing them down in the beginning of the game.

“We had a tough time moving the ball on Calvert early on. They did a really good job up front and neutralized us,” he said. “I thought in the fourth quarter our line and our backs started to take over and take control and I’m really happy with that. Hats off to Calvert. They are one good football team and really well-coached.”

Calvert (1-2) also was dealing with injuries at the quarterback position. Their backup Trenton Cooper started the game in place of Park Hemminger, but exited the game after Calvert’s second series with an injury. That led to sophomore Mitch Nielsen having to step in after receiving zero reps at the position in practice this week.

Calvert head coach Todd Fox, a 1991 Willard graduate, said he was proud of the way his team responded and played against the Flyers.

“I have never been more proud of a team I’ve coached in 23 years of coaching,” Fox said. “This group of guys responded very well for losing our second quarterback in the second series of a very big game against a very good team which I believe is one of the best teams in Division VII, and still battled toe-to-toe to the end of the game.”

The Flyers killed seven minutes on 15 plays on their first possession, mostly with runs by Eli Meyer, who carried the ball 10 times for 30 yards and helped set up Joey Catalano for a 23-yard field goal to give the Flyers a 3-0 lead.

After forcing Calvert into a three-and-out, the Flyers headed back down the field again. A 15-yard pass from Lukasko to Catalano and several runs by Good, Catalano kicked his second field goal of the game (21 yards) to give the Flyers a 6-0 lead.

The Flyers forced a turnover on downs on Calvert’s next possession. Then Meyer left the game on the Flyers’ first play of the drive. He finished the game with 11 carries for 27 yards.

Later in the quarter, Kurt Maxwell returned a Calvert punt 25 yards to the Senecas’ 15-yard line. It only took one play for Lukasko to find Hunter Sweet in the end zone for the first touchdown of the game. Catalano made the extra point to give the Flyers a 13-0 lead at halftime.

After a scoreless third quarter, the Senecas began the fourth quarter with a 31-yard touchdown pass to cut the Flyers’ lead to just six points.

St. Paul answered back with another score. After another long pass from Lukasko and six more runs, Catalano kicked his third field goal from 20 yards out to put the Flyers up 16-7 with 8:43 left in the game.

The Flyers really began to gain momentum after that kick. They forced Calvert to a three and out on the next drive and stopped them on fourth down to take possession at Calvert’s 27-yard line.

It was all Crabbs on the Flyers’ next drive. It took him five carries to cover the distance, the last from a yard out to put the Flyers in the lead 23-7 with 5:23 left in the game.

Calvert was moving great on their next possession. After a 19-yard pass by Nielsen and a 17-yard run by Connor Kwiat, the Senecas found themselves at the Flyers’ 41-yard line. Then Lukasko came up big in the secondary with an interception near the goal line — which he returned back to the Senecas’ line of scrimmage. The Senecas weren’t ready to quit just yet, however.

Calvert forced a fumble to gain possession at their own 38-yard line, but fumbled on their first play of the possession to give St. Paul the ball at the 39-yard line.

After two runs and a first down, the Flyers lined up in victory formation to end the game.

The Flyers (3-0) begins Firelands Conference play at New London next Friday.

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