St. Joe claims share of SMAC West lead

(St. Joseph) – Back when Ike Muhlenkamp and Bob Knight were on the sidelines for the Bears and Mustangs, games between the two former Big 8 Conference rivals usually determined who would claim the conference title.  That was true again as St. Joe grabbed a share of the lead in the SMAC West with a 13-6 win over Portage Central at Dickinson Stadium.

After a scoreless first quarter, St. Joe broke the scoreless drought less than 2 minutes into the second quarter.  The Bears went on a 10 play 89 yard scoring drive capped off by a 38 yard touchdown run from Derek Holowasko.  The PAT was no good, but the Bears had a 6-0 lead.

Later in the 2nd quarter, Portage Central would drive down into St. Joe territory, but the Bears would turn away the Mustangs on downs at the 32 yard line.

St. Joe would get the ball back and drive down to the Portage 31 yard line and would try a field goal on the final play of the half, but the 48 yard attempt from Antonio Buhrfiend was blocked and the Bears held on to the 6-0 lead at the break.

St. Joe opened the 2nd half with the ball and the Bears took it down the field quickly going 81 yards in 6 plays.  Finished by a 40 yard touchdown run from Holowasko, Buhrfiend’s PAT was good and the Bears increased the lead to 13-0.   At that point of the game St. Joe’s scoring drive was 81 yards, was more yardage than Portage Central had (81-79).

However, Portage Central would pull within 13-6 late in the 3rd quarter, when Greyson Plew ran a 40 yard quarterback keeper for a touchdown.  The snap on the point after was bad and the Mustangs instead tried to pass for the conversion on the broken play, but the pass sailed out of the back of the endzone and was no good.  The third quarter would end with St. Joe holding onto a 13-6 lead.

The 4th quarter was all about defense for both teams.  Portage Central had one last chance with 4:21 left, when the Mustangs were forced to go for it on a 4th down at their own 26 yard line.  After a time out the Mustangs tried a double reverse option pass from wide out Luke Leto, but the pass was broken up by Art Herndon and the last real threat for the Mustangs ended.

Portage Central would get the ball back one more time but the Bear defense came up with an interception from Devon Frenchko and Bears would run out the clock. 

Andy Bloomgren was 4 of 6 passing for 66 yards for St. Joe after coming in off the bench when starting quarterback Nathan Long was injured in the first quarter.    Holowasko finished with 230 yards rushing on 31 carries and two touchdowns.  He finished with 11 more yards than Portage Central had total.

With the win, St. Joe improves to 4-2 and 3-1 in the SMAC West, which ties St. Joe with Portage Northern at 4-2 and 3-1 in the SMAC West.    Portage Central also is 4-2, but they are 2-1 in the SMAC West.

St. Joe is back on the road next week to face Battle Creek Lakeview (1-5), who lost at Lakeshore 13-0.