Key pass helps Braves stop Saints

Dennis Grall | Daily Press Rudy Peterson (7) of Gladstone snags 68-yard TD pass 1:18 before halftime.

GLADSTONE — A sweet little third down pass turned into a table-setting critical play here Friday night as Gladstone held off St. Ignace 26-14 in a season-opening football game.

Faced with a third-down play from their own 14 yard line and heading into a stiff wind, quarterback Jared Crow hit tight end Cooper Cavadeas with a short pass along the St. Ignace sideline that turned into a crucial 18-yard first-down.

On the very next play, Crow rolled to his right and unloaded a pass to Rudy Peterson, who sprinted the final 40 yards for a touchdown that sent the Braves ahead 18-8 with just 1:18 left in the first half.

Had the Braves been forced to punt into the wind, it is likely St. Ignace would have had the ball inside midfield and in prime position for a potential go-ahead score heading into the intermission.

“That was absolutely the tipping point of the game,” Gladstone coach Jeff Hansen said of the TD play that was preceded by the key first down. “That says a lot about our kids and how they handled the moment.”

St. Ignace coach Chris “Iffer” Marshall said his coaches had just addressed the defense before the TD pass. “That was a little bit of mis-communication. That was a blown coverage,” he said. “That takes the wind out of your sails.”

As if that two-play sequence was not enough, the Braves took further control just three plays and 91 seconds into the second half when Crow and Cavadeas teamed up on a 44-yard scoring bomb.

After missing three previous conversion attempts, the Braves hit a two-point conversion on Crow’s pass to Peterson in the left corner of the end zone for a 26-8 cushion.

The Saints were their own worst enemy for much of the game, fumbling the ball away five times, and none of them were the result of the steady rain that fell for much of the first half and about half of the final quarter.

“We had an opportunistic defense,” said Hansen. “You have to be in conditions like this. We ripped and raked with the second guy (on the tackle). You have to create turnovers versus the running game.”

Gladstone scored first in the non-conference game, with Cole Hanson recovering St. Ignace’s first fumble on the season’s second play. It took the Braves six plays to cover 33 yards, with workhorse back Brody Sanville going the final eight yards just 4:21 into the season.

St. Ignace took even less time to open the scoring for the season, zipping 75 yards on its first offensive play of the game as Hunter Sheperd hit Lane Matson on a 65-yard scoring play. The same duo then connected on the go-ahead conversion pass.

Gladstone regained the lead on Crow’s 21-yard pass to Cavadeas in the second quarter for a 12-8 lead. That came after Gladstone’s Dan Hill recovered a fumble near midfield, with the Braves using four plays to hit paydirt.

The Saints trimmed the deficit to 26-14 late in the third quarter, using an impressive 16-play march (15 runs) to cover 72 yards. Garrett Rickley covered the final five yards with 54.7 seconds left in the period.

Fumble recoveries by Peterson and Connor McKenzie helped prevent the Saints from staging any further threats. Marshall said the fact his running backs kept pushing for more yardage against Gladstone’s swarming defense played a role in losing the ball.

“Our kids played pretty well offensively and the defense made some nice plays for losses,” he said. “But the big plays hurt us.”

Hansen was proud to watch his kids “grind it out” in tough conditions. “St. Ignace had a real good scheme, that 22 (Shawn Livingston) and 24 (Rickley) are real horses. We found some kids who did a nice job down the stretch. Rudy (Peterson) played really well, he was an impact guy who made plays all over the place.”

The Braves ran for 142 yards, with Sanville getting 134 in 19 carries. Crow, in his first start, hit 7-of-11 passes under slick conditions for 155 yards. Cavadeas caught four passes for 75 yards and Peterson snagged three for 90 yards.

St. Ignace, with just five reserves, ran for 169 yards and Sheperd passed for 137 yards. Each quarterback threw an interception.

The Saints visit Newberry Friday while Gladstone is at Gaylord Friday.

The summary:

First quarter:

Gladstone – Sanville, 8-yard run, extra run failed, 8:39

St. Ignace – Matson, 65 yards from Sheperd, Matson from Sheperd, XPP, 8:30.

Second quarter –

Gladstone – Cavadeas, 21 yards from Crow, run failed, 6:30

Gladstone – Peterson, 68 yards from Crow, run failed, 1:18

Third quarter

Gladstone – Cavadeas, 44-yards from Crow, Peterson from Crow XPP, 10:29

St. Ignace – Rickley, 5-yard run, run failed, 54.7

Statistics

First downs: SI 16, Gladstone 8

Rushing: SI 169 yards, (Rickley 19-78); Gladstone, 142 yards, (Sanville 19-134)

Passing: SI 6-of-18, 137 yards; Gladstone, 7-of-11 for 155 yards

Receiving: SI Calb Brown 1-for-27; Zach Movalson 1-for-23; Gladstone: Cavadeas 4-75; Peterson 3-90.

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