WHEATON – With its postseason hopes on the line, the St. Francis football team rose to the occasion, downing St. Edward, 50-8, under its home lights Friday night.
The Spartans blew the game open with a 28-point second quarter to close the regular season 5-4, which could be enough for St. Francis to crack the playoff field when pairings are announced tonight.
Spartans coach Greg Purnell stressed how important it was that his team seized the momentum of the game.
“Winning this game was really important to our kids,” Purnell said. “We knew we’d get in if we won. I’ve said all my life coaching as many years as I have that if you’re playing for something the ninth game of the year, you’ve got good kids and a good club.”
Perhaps the most important play of the game for the Spartans (5-4, 3-4 Suburban Christian Conference Blue) came as the clock wound down during the scoreless first quarter. Facing a fourth-and-8, the team entrusted star running back James Butler to salvage the drive. Butler drove hard to the left, bouncing off Green Wave defenders before being dragged down past the first-down marker.
Butler, who has drawn recruiting attention from collegiate programs such as Iowa and Purdue, scored his first of two touchdowns soon after, once again powering his way past would-be tacklers.
Shortly after his second rushing touchdown in the second quarter, his 19th on the season, Butler left the game with an unspecified injury. Purnell said after the game the team did not know yet what was wrong.
The St. Francis offense continued to put points up without Butler, and took advantage of miscues by St. Edward.
Up 22-0 with 46.9 seconds left in the first half, the Spartans caught the Green Wave (5-4, 3-4 SCC Blue) off-guard with an onside kick up the middle of the field that they recovered successfully. The team marched half the length of the field in around 30 seconds for another touchdown.
The Spartans’ defense was just as impressive, smothering the Green Wave offensive attack, which has been prolific much of the season.
The defense knocked down many passes and limited the Green Wave’s star running back, Davontae Elam, to one touchdown, his 18th on the year. Elam only broke a few big runs, including a 59-yard score late in the fourth after the Spartans had begun to sit their starters.
St. Francis, which missed the playoffs at 5-4 last year, is better positioned on playoff points this time around, and will learn its fate tonight.