Bears Clinch playoff berth with win over Gull Lake
By BEN SANDERS - HP Sports Writer

ST. JOSEPH — St. Joseph used big plays to get back to the playoffs.

The Bears defeated Gull Lake 28-16 in a Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference non-division game, scoring three touchdowns of 45 yards or longer.

St. Joseph (6-2) clinched its third straight playoff berth with the victory.

“It’s awesome,” St. Joseph coach Gandalf Church said. “Very proud of the guys. We got in, took care of it tonight, so we can focus on just trying to get a good spot next week.

“That’s three straight. That’s where we need to be. We need to be a perennial playoff team.”

Gull Lake (3-5) led 8-7 in the second quarter before St. Joseph went ahead for good as Ryan Barlow found Devon Frenchko all alone behind the defense for a 62-yard touchdown pass. That gave the Bears a 14-8 halftime lead.

St. Joseph extended its lead early in the third quarter when Barlow found Derek Holowasko open on a short screen pass and he broke free for a 54-yard score, making it 21-8.

“I thought we played a pretty even first half,” Gull Lake coach Ryan Gallogly said. “We were out of position on a couple plays and they exploited it. Credit to them.”

Gull Lake scored early in the fourth quarter on a 9-yard run by quarterback Hunter Snyder to make it 21-16. Snyder finished with 50 yards rushing and 101 passing. The Blue Devils had touchdown drives of 81 yards and 61 yards, but were forced to punt seven times.

“We put some long drives together,” Gallogly said. “We did some things really well, just not enough to beat a team this good. That’s a solid football team here.”

Church said the Bears had to adjust as Gull Lake ran more plays from a spread offense than usual.

“Defense played real well, bailed us out a couple times,” Church said.

St. Joseph put the game away with a long fourth-quarter touchdown drive, with Barlow running 12 yards for a touchdown after a fake to Ryan Haynes with 2:11 left. Gull Lake got the ball back and Snyder’s first pass was intercepted by Spencer Blackmond to secure the St. Joseph win.

Barlow finished 10-for-14 passing for 188 yards and two touchdowns.

“There’s some games you kind of have control and methodically move the ball,” Church said. “Other games you’ve got to get those yards chunks at a time. We had three big plays, but then we had a nice long drive at the end to seal it.”

Haynes rushed 19 times for 99 yards. He broke the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season early in the game, and ran 45 yards for St. Joseph’s first touchdown.

“Ryan Haynes, everybody knows he’s our dude,” Church said. “We got some things because everyone was focusing on him so much.

“I’m proud of him. He’s a great player, he’s a great kid, he’s a great teammate.”