However, the state-ranked Flyers scored two touchdowns in the second half to take the lead and held on to beat the Mounties, 31-20, to remain unbeaten overall (7-0) and in the Firelands Conference (4-0).
St. Paul coach John Livengood said the struggles weren’t all because of mistakes, but because of Mapleton’s talent.
“It’s not so much what we didn’t do, but it’s a lot of what Mapleton did,” Livengood said. “I think you got to give a lot of credit to Mapleton. I wish we would have played better. We made some mistakes, but I think you got to give a lot of credit to them.”
Cam Caizzo lead the St. Paul (AP Division VII No. 3) rushing attack that totaled 249 yards. Caizzo carried the ball 12 times for 123 yards and a touchdown and also caught a pass for 18 yards. Thane Crabbs added 99 yards on 19 carries with a touchdown and also caught two passes for 31 yards.
In the passing game, Nick Lukasko went 7-of-13 for 158 yards and two touchdowns, one to Paul Pearce for 14 yards and the other to Kurt Maxwell for 67 yards.
On the Mapleton (3-4, 1-3) side, the Mounties rushed for 134 yards between four ball carriers. Garrett Hartley led the attack with 59 yards on 13 carries. He also caught two passes for five yards.
Logan Pharmer went 25-of-45 with 259 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. He also carried the ball six times for 32 yards.
Ethan Hartley was the Mounties’ leading receiver with five catches for 86 yards and a touchdown.
St. Paul was set to receive the opening kickoff, but dropped a short, line-drive kick, giving Mapleton the ball around midfield to start. The Flyers didn’t let the Mounties do any damage as they forced and recovered a fumble at their own 31-yard line.
The Flyers marched down the field and got on the board first after a 14-yard touchdown pass from Lukasko to Pearce.
The St. Paul defense came up with another stop on the Mounties’ next drive. This time Eric Crabbs picked off a pass, at the Flyers’ own 13.
The Flyers went three-and-out and punted the ball. Mapleton began its drive with excellent field position at its 49-yard line. This time the Mounties didn’t turn the ball over and scored on a 3-yard TD pass by Logan Pharmer to Sam Mullins to tie the game at 7-7.
The Flyers answered back with a three-play drive, ending in a 48-yard TD run by Caizzo. The Mounties answered on the next drive, scoring on a 25-yard TD pass by Pharmer to Ethan Hartley. The Flyers blocked the extra point attempt to hold on to the lead 14-13.
The Flyers got on the board one more time before the half. Joey Catalano kicked a 31-yard field goal to give the Flyers a 17-13 lead at halftime.
Mapleton received the opening kickoff of the second half and took the lead on an 11-yard TD pass by Pharmer to Mullins. The Flyers found themselves down 20-17 with 9:20 left in the third quarter.
“We haven’t been in that situation,” Livengood said. “We haven’t been down this year. But our kids didn’t panic. They kept fighting back against a team that had a lot of momentum going and found a way to win.”
The Flyers moved down the field on their next drive to the Mounties’ 27-yard line and faced a fourth-and-9 situation. They went for it and failed, turning it over on downs.
The Mounties also had a fourth-and-4 situation at the St. Paul 33. They went for it and passed down field to an open receiver near the end zone, but the pass was dropped for a turnover on downs. On the first play of the Flyers drive, Lukasko hit Maxwell with a 67-yard TD pass to give the Flyers a 24-20 lead.
Mapleton went three-and-out on their next drive, but forced a fumble on the Flyers’ next possession to give them the ball at their own 24-yard line. The Mounties went three-and-out and decided to pooch punt. The Flyers blocked the punt attempt and started with the ball at the Mounties’ 14-yard line. They capitalized on the field position and scored on a four-yard TD run by Thane Crabbs. The Flyers held on to win 31-20.
After punts by both teams, the Mounties had the ball with little time remaining. They started at their own 20 and moved up to the Flyers’ 49. Then Kaden Rossman picked off a pass by Pharmer to seal the game for the Flyers.
Next week, the Flyers will host South Central on Saturday at Whitney Field.