Defense shines in St. Joe's 21-3 win over Portage Northern

ST. JOSEPH – The old saying is “Defense wins championships.”

While St. Joe may not have won the SMAC Championship during Friday’s game, they did stay in contention for the league title after the defense kept Portage Northern out of the endzone and went on for a 21-3 win over the Huskies at Dickinson Stadium.
After scoring 62 points in the week 2 victory over Battle Creek Central, nobody was expecting a low scoring defensive battle.

But that’s exactly what happened with both teams struggling to get their offenses in gear.

Portage Northern scored on their opening possession, which came after a St. Joe fumble at the Bears 13-yard line.  St. Joe’s defense kept the Huskies from gaining a first down and were forced to settle for a 27-yard field goal as the visitors took a 3-0 lead.

Late in the first quarter, St. Joe had a drive stall at the same spot on the Huskies side of the field and Max Taylor’s 27-yard field goal was blocked after a bobbled hold. 

St. Joe’s defense got the ball back after forcing the ball over on downs and the offense went to work.  St. Joe went on a 9 play, 62-yard touchdown drive, capped off on a 30-yard touchdown pass from Matt Lanier to his quarterback partner Preston Nichols with 2:43 left in the second quarter.  St. Joe took a 7-3 lead into the half.

In the 3rd, St. Joe’s defense saw Portage Northern go on a 14-play drive and a goal line stand stopped Portage Northern at the 2 yard line to keep the Bears in front 7-3. 

The defense came up with a Huskie fumble early in the fourth quarter and a steady dose of runs drove the Bears down the field and Andrew Barlow capped off the 57-yard drive with a 7-yard touchdown run.  St. Joe increased the lead to 14-3.

On the ensuing kickoff, Northern was poised to respond with a touchdown of their own.  Jayden Myers returned the kick 90-yards and was stopped at the 4-yard line as Trey McGinnis chased Myers down with the touchdown saving tackle.

But, Portage Northern had the ball at the 4-yard line and was primed to score anyways.  Portage Northern ran 4 running plays and were stopped at the one yard line on 4th down to give St. Joe the ball. 

St. Joe brought the ball out of the shadow of the endzone before punting, on the Huskies first offense play after the punt, Northern quarterback Cane Mack’s pass was intercepted by Hunter Lange.  Lange returned the ball to the Portage Northern 17- yard line, and Trey McGinnis, who saved a touchdown earlier, scored one of his own to give the Bears a 21-3 lead.

The visitors still trying to crack the endzone threw another interception on the next drive, and Hunter Lange again intercepted the pass.

St. Joe then ran out the final two plays and went on to a 21-3 victory.

Trey McGinnis had 15 carries for 66 yards and a touchdown, Joron Brown carried the ball 10 times for 50 yards and Matt Lanier had 10 rushes for 45 yards. 

With the win St. Joe improves to 3-0 overall and 3-0 in the SMAC.  The Bears head back on the road to face Kalamazoo Central next week, the Maroon Giants are 1-2 and 0-1 in the SMAC.  They were defeated by Portage Central 17-7 last week.