WOODSTOCK – The bus ride north from Wheaaton took a bit longer than expected for St. Francis, which arrived to Marian Central eight minutes after the 7 p.m. scheduled kickoff.
Imagine how long the bus ride home must have felt.
The Spartans erased a 15-point second half deficit against Marian Central, only to let the Hurricanes march down the field for a fourth-quarter score that proved to be the difference in a 34-28 win at George Harding Field.
The Spartans (3-3, 1-3) were stopped one yard short on a fourth-down attempt in the final two minutes as the Hurricanes (5-1, 3-1) held on for the win in the Suburban Christian Conference Blue Division matchup.
St. Francis coach Greg Purnell said a few big plays made the difference in an action-packed game.
“Our kids fought really hard,” Purnell said. “I’m really proud of that fact. They never gave up. But you can’t give up three 50-yard touchdown passes and expect to win a game.”
The coach’s math was off, but he had the right idea.
Marian quarterback Billy Bahl connected on touchdowns of 47 yards to Jordan Niemeyer, 33 yards to Brett Olson and 20 yards to Tom Klinger as he picked apart the St. Francis secondary.
But it was Bahl’s 49-yard pass to Olson on the decisive drive that set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Chris Daniels.
By night’s end, Bahl had completed 15 of 24 passes for 277 yards and three scores. Five receivers caught passes for the Hurricanes, with Olson leading the team with four catches for 113 yards.
Marian coach Ed Brucker said he was proud of his players for bouncing back after their 22-7 lead slipped away.
“They showed a little mental toughness, which we need,” Brucker said. “Maybe that was good for us in the long run.”
Meanwhie, St. Francis leaned heavily on running back James Butler, who ran for 113 yards and two touchdowns.
Butler also showed off his arm on a trick play, connecting with Matthew Hanson on a 70-yard halfback pass for a touchdown.
Yet a slow start in the first half – Butler had only nine rushing yards at the break – and a few defensive lapses ultimately cost the Spartans the game. Purnell said his team needed to improve its pass rush and coverage on defense and could not afford to sputter early on offense.
“If we get those things corrected,” Purnell said, “we’re going to be OK.”
Marian Central 34, St. Francis 28
SF 0 7 14 7 - 28
MC 6 9 13 6 - 34
HOW THEY SCORED
MC – Klinger 20 pass from Bahl (kick failed), 5:08
MC – Lee 7 run (pass failed), 11:55
SF – Butler 1 run (Hart kick), 7:14
MC – Shin 25 FG, 0:05
MC – Olson 33 pass from Bahl (Shin kick), 9:09
SF – Butler 38 run (Hart kick), 8:09
MC – Niemeyer 37 pass from Bahl (kick failed), 5:50
SF – Hanson 70 pass from Butler (Hart kick), 4:38
SF – Connelly 4 pass from Prociuk (Hart kick), 8:38
MC – Daniels 2 run (kick failed), 7:22