FREMONT - With his team trailing Mohawk by a couple touchdowns at the half, Fremont St. Joseph coach T.J. Buckley's challenge could have simply been, "Just do what they did."
In truth, the discussion was a little more technical than that, but in the final analysis, the Crimson Streaks did to the Warriors what the Warriors had done to them. And because the Streaks did it just a little bit better, they came away with a 28-18 win Friday night at Don Paul Stadium.
"We weren't staying low, we weren't fighting that first half," Buckley said after his club rallied for its seventh win against three defeats. "We were standing up and they were getting into our linebackers."
PHOTO BY RON ZEISLOFT
Mohawk’s Logan Stilllberger gets stopped by St. Joe’s Nick Magro during Friday’s game in?Fremont.
That's football talk for they were getting manhandled.
The Warriors, playing for the eighth spot in Region 24 of the Division VII playoffs next week, were dominant while building an 18-7 first-half lead.
Mohawk piled up 14 first downs over the first two quarters and its 244 rushing yards were more than triple the total offense produced by the Streaks in the first half. Throw in a couple St. Joe turnovers and the Warriors were seemingly on their way.
But in the second half, the Streaks held Mohawk to 10 yards in total offense and no first downs in four possessions.
Meanwhile, St. Joe's Marcus Kerr ran for 165 second-half yards and two touchdowns to spark the big rally.
Kerr's 1-yard smash finished a seven-play, 66-yard scoring drive to start the second half. After a three-and-out for Mohawk, Kerr runs of 13 and 16 yards were the start and finish to a 71-yard touchdown march that put the Streaks up 21-18 with 3:11 still to play in the third period.
"We knew we could move the ball," Buckley said. "We did move it that first drive and then we turned it over twice. You turn it over twice and you get a little down on yourself.
"We knew we had the ball (to start) the second half and we just needed to come out and dominate the line of scrimmage and do what we do running the football," he said.
The Streaks failed on their next possession but put the game away with 13-play, 56-yard trek that consumed nearly seven minutes. When Bennett Weickert powered in from the 1, it gave St. Joe its 10-point lead with just 2:16 to play.
"In the second half, we couldn't stop them and we never seemed to get any rhythm back for ourselves," Warrior coach Erik Baker said. "We never could get ahead of the chains.
"I feel awful for the kids," he said. "We worked awfully hard to put ourselves in position where Week 10 would mean something and halfway through, we were there. But they did a great job in the second half of controlling the ball and got the win."
The first half went mostly according to script, except for one bit of good fortune for the Streaks.
Gunnar Johnson, the runaway leader for the final Midland Athletic League rushing championship coming in, pushed his final total over 1,600 yards by gaining 166 yards on 27 carries Friday.
Running mates Eric Maskey (nine carries, 40 yards) and Logan Stillberger (six carries, 50 yards) added plenty behind a big effort up front.
The Warriors, who averaged 6.8 yards on 15 first-down snaps in the first half, powered 80 yards on 12 plays to open the game with Johnson's 22-yard burst being the capper with six minutes left. But the run for the extras failed.
The Streaks averted disaster and went ahead 7-6 with 1:16 left in the first period. On first down from the 6, Kerr carried to the 2 and then fumbled the ball into the end zone. Teammate Hunter Harrison covered it for the touchdown and Corey Durbin's kick put the hosts ahead.
Mohawk responded with another 80-yard scoring drive with Johnson getting the touchdown on a 25-yard sprint.
Stillberger then recovered a fumbled pitch at the Streak 35. He then carried 31 yards before Maskey got the final 4 yards for the 18-7 advantage.
Mohawk twice advanced inside the Streak 25 in the first half, one of those coming when Mitchell Parker intercepted a pass, but the Warriors couldn't score again.
The Streaks will likely host Arlington in next week's opening round of the playoffs.
"I just know we're home and that's a good place to be to start," Buckley said. "All you need is a seat at the table and we've got a seat at the table, so we'll go from there."
The Warriors nearly gave them some company.