BASCOM - Before tractors, farmers used plow horses to do everything from till fields to pull logs from the forest.
While there was no harness or bridle or yoke, St. Joe rode Marcus Kerr on Friday night to a 27-13 victory.
The senior running back rushed 36 times for 176 yards and three scores in the game.
"Marcus Kerr carried the team on his shoulders tonight, being the only back with Mitchell (Gonya) on the shelf and (Bennett Weickert) being a little sore and (Jake) Yeckley having to play quarterback," St. Joe coach T.J. Buckley said. "No. 4 carried us tonight."
The victory helped thin out the six-team herd that was residing atop the Midland Athletic League standings going into the week. With the Chieftains' loss as well as Seneca East's defeat, St. Joe remains tied with Mohawk, Carey and Calvert at 3-1 with three weeks to go in the season.
"I was surprised when I saw the Carey-Calvert score last week and that really gave a little bit of life in practice this week, that we still had a chance," Buckley said. "Our goal at the beginning of the season was MAL and making it to playoffs. We knew if we made to the top of the MAL, we'd definitely be a playoff team. That's what we're going to continue to have our goal be."
For Hopewell-Loudon coach Jeremy Nutter, it was another game where good fortune wasn't with his team.
"Our kids fought hard. I'm proud of them. They played a complete game in a lot of aspects. (We're) a few plays away overall," Nutter said. "Just a few breakdowns defensively and right now, we're not catching any breaks and we need some of those to get back on the good side of the momentum. I feel badly for our seniors. I know this is a big rivalry for us. I know they wanted to go out winners against St. Joe but we did fight."
On its second drive of the game, St. Joe (5-2) drove deep into Hopewell-Loudon territory. A fourth-down quarterback sneak by Yeckley came up an inch shy of the first down at the Chieftains' 9.
Three plays later, Derek Runion was picked off at the 10 by Bennett Weickert.
"Their kid made a heck of a play," Nutter said. "We ran a screen out of a formation that we hadn't even shown this year. He blitzed which was exactly what we wanted but he smelled a rat and he turned around. Derek really tried to put it in the one place he could get, but unfortunately the kid just made a heck of a play."
On the next play, Kerr punched it for the 6-0 lead.
"It gave us some momentum to go in and get that score. That really set the tone to get the next two," Buckley said.
After the St. Joe defense, which held Hopewell-Loudon to just 52 yards of offense in the first half, forced a three-and-out, the Crimson Streaks drove 73 yards in eight plays to score again. This time it was Yeckley who shimmied and shook his way into the end zone from 40 yards out. Another failed extra point left it 12-0 with 6:21 to go in the first half.
In response, the Chieftains (4-3) drove 54 yards in 12 plays and hit pay dirt with Runion finding Eli Tooker on a 4-yard quick slant to cut it to 12-7 with 1:55 to go until the halftime band show.
Forced into a third-and-10 situation on its own 41, Yeckley busted out on a bootleg and raced 53 yards to put the ball on the Chieftains' 6. The run was aided by a vicious block by Ryan Williams, which sprung Yeckley for the bulk of those yards.
Kerr found the end zone to finish the drive a few plays later with a 2-yard plunge. Yeckley punched in the 2-point conversion for a 20-7 halftime lead.
"I thought our kids came out and did a wonderful job at the start of the game," Buckley said. "It's the best start we've had in a long time. We haven't since week three had more than 20 points on the board before halftime so I thought we did a good job offensively."
The Chieftains showed better consistency in the second half. On its second drive, Hopewell-Loudon used 15 plays to march 78 yards, capping it with a 4-yard Cody Malone touchdown scamper on the first play of the fourth quarter. But the extra point was blocked, leaving Hopewell-Loudon down seven, 20-13.
After stifling St. Joe, Hopewell-Loudon got the ball back on its own 14 and drove to the St. Joe 29 before stalling out with 5:36 to go in the game.
That's when St. Joe really saddled up on Kerr. The league's fourth-leading rusher got it 10 straight times and the 5-7 plow horse plowed his way to 71 yards, including a final 30-yard touchdown with 27.6 seconds to go.
"I had no problem giving him the ball," Buckley said. "I brought Bennett Weickert in to a little better blocking. Not better blocking but a bigger body to move those guys out of the way. He did a good job with that."
The MAL's second-leading rusher coming into the game, Malone, was held to a paltry 80 yards on 26 carries. As a team, the Chieftains rushed for 53 yards.
"We just have phenomenal front four. They take care of the run," Buckley said. "It's the pass I've been worried about with my two injured starting DBs. I've never worried about the running game against other teams because those guys did a great job. We put a lot of time in our run defense and that's why they're good at it."
Yeckley ran for 113 yards on eight tries.
Runion threw for 153 yards on 12 of 22 passing.
Nutter said while his team is a game back now in the MAL race, it's far from over.
"It's exciting to be in a race every week and that's the way it will remain for the remainder of the year," Nutter said. "Anything can happen in this league. Obviously everybody is beating everybody so it's time to get ready for Seneca East."