St. Joe gets ugly to beat Seneca East

FREMONT – There were no GQ or Vogue photoshoots Friday at Don Paul Stadium. Nothing pretty was happening in the facility.

It was ugly.

The weather was ugly and, at times, the football was ugly.

But ugly is OK with T.J. Buckley. An ugly win is still a win, and his Fremont St. Joe team got the win, 10-7 over Seneca East.

“We played ugly tonight, but you know what, we got a win,” Buckley said. “We told the kids coming out we were going to have to win an ugly game. It was wet, it was slick and they were still going to do what they do, throw the ball around. We had to make sure we weren’t falling down, dropping the ball. For the most part we did a great job.”

On a night when the ball hit the turf eight times, it was almost fitting a turnover turned out to be the deciding play.

With just over four minutes remaining, Seneca East took over on its 27-yard line. Tiger quarterback Ethan Caudill connected with Alex Scheiber, who raced to the Crimson Streak 21. But two plays later, St. Joe’s defense forced a fumble and gave the offense a chance to run out the clock.

“Defense played a heck of a game, saved our butts down there toward the goal line,” Buckley said. “They did a heck of a job. I couldn’t ask any more out of my defense.”

Seneca East coach Ed Phillips felt after struggling to get his offense going due to the weather, and the St. Joe defense, it was good position late in the game.

“I felt like going into the second half of the third quarter and the fourth quarter, I thought we were gaining control and I thought our offensive line was really starting to play well,” Phillips said. “They were protecting us, giving us a lot of time. We were running the football a little bit. We got a penalty here, a turnover there and that’s what ended this. That’s why we didn’t win this ball game.”

St. Joe started backup quarterback Jake Yeckley in place of injured started Kyle Veleba. On a third down play, Yeckley scampered around the right end, picking up the critical first down his team needed to put the win in the bank.

“Jake, we call him ‘Money Man.’ He took care of business there getting us the first down to seal the victory,” Buckley said. “With a short week, we played last Saturday so we had a short week to get him prepared. He also played with a broken finger on his throwing hand. I give him all the props because he came out played as hard as he possibly could and took the reigns of the offense.”

St. Joe got its 10 points in the first half with the benefit of working with short fields. Late in the first quarter, Marcus Kerr returned a punt 30 yards to the Seneca East 35-yard line where the Crimson Streaks embarked on their first scoring drive. The drive stalled, but not before getting into Corey Durbin’s field goal range. On the first play of the second quarter, the senior booted a 34-yarder for the game’s first points.

Later in the quarter, St. Joe stopped Seneca East on fourth down on its own 29. Soon after, Kerr powered into the end zone and St. Joe took a 10-0 lead.

Seneca East got the ball to start the second half with the score the same. Caudill hooked up with Adam Hall on a 32-yard pitch-and-catch that got the Tiger offense going. Caudill put his team on the board shortly after with a 2-yard touchdown run.

But the Caudill-to-Hall connection that had been so potent through the season’s first three weeks was held in check. Partially due to the weather, partially due to the St. Joe defense.

Late in the third quarter, Hall broke behind the defense but St. Joe’s Hunter Harrison leaped and knocked the ball down to prevent a touchdown.

Buckley said Veleba’s absence also left a hole in his team’s secondary, but they were able to aptly fill the void.

“Being a man down with Kyle Veleba on the sideline this week, we implemented, put a linebacker back there,” Buckley said. “Matt Fox did everything I asked him to do and more. He knocked a couple balls away. We had Hunter Harrison jump in the middle, knock away a touchdown pass. Again, DBs, defense did a great job, they just prepared very well this well this week to play Seneca East.”

Caudill finished the night 13 for 30 passing for 194 yards. Phillips gave the bulk of the credit to St. Joe’s defense.

“They did a good job,” Phillips said in regards to the St. Joe defense. “They came out and did some things to try to take Adam away. The monsoon didn’t help us, but I give them a lot of credit. They got a good football team there. They won it.”