BY DWAIN SPILLMAN JR, Journal Sports
Recently crowned District 3-1A champion St. Mary’s has more than a profound reason to close out the 2022 regular season on a winning note as they host feeble Northwood-Lena in a Thursday matchup at Turpin Stadium.
Power points, homefield advantage, ranking, and a potential first-round bye in the postseason are just a few reasons for St. Mary’s (7-1, 3-0) to gain victory over the visiting Gators (2-7, 1-2).
“We want to finish strong going into the playoffs, especially for the seniors,” Tigers head coach Aaron York said. “This game is just as important as all of the rest. There is so much on the line, and we just need to take care of business.”
An additional reason for a victory would give York’s battered and bruised crew time to heal after defeating Logansport, 24-8, a week ago, which earned St. Mary’s at least a share of the district crown. Beating Northwood-Lena would sew up the district title all to themselves.
Since falling in the season opener at Class 3A powerhouse Abbeville (21-7), the Tigers have reeled off seven straight victories by an average of 36 points, including a 3-0 trip through District 3-1A. However, that success has yielded an immense need for a little downtime heading into the postseason.
“It was a very physical game for sure,” York said of the battle at Logansport. “We are a little banged up right now. So, our focus this week is to recoup, recover, and get back to business.”
York was quick to give his entire roster praise for the effort against rival Logansport. St. Mary’s totaled 337 yards of offense while allowing just 237 and eight points to the normally explosive Logansport offense. That included three interceptions by the St. Mary’s defense.
“Our kids played out of their minds,” he said. “Our defense played out of their minds. To hold that group (LHS) to eight points just says it all. I could name so many kids, but our entire team contributed at an amazing level and I could not be more proud of them. We played one of our best games of the year, and that’s what you hope to do finishing out the regular season.”
Northwood-Lena hopes its performance improves from its last couple in district play as the Gators have lost three straight by a combined 122 points, including a 52-0 shutout at the hands of Logansport.
The Tigers enter the final week of the regular season at No. 4 in the Division IV Select bracket, holding the last of four first-round playoff byes.
Lakeview faces enormous challenge at Many
MANY – Life throws obstacles and adversity in everyone’s path, and the Lakeview football team will face its biggest obstacle of the season Thursday when they head to Class 2A No. 1 Many (8-0, 4-0 District 3-2A to finish the regular season.
The Gators (4-5, 0-4 District 3-2A), who enter the finale on the outside of the 28-team playoff at No. 31, need to knock off the district champion to continue their season.
But more importantly, coach Brandon Helms wants his battered and beleaguered bunch to not shy away from the tall task at hand.
“Are we going to stand up and face it, or run from it?” Helms said he asked his team. “I have a lot of respect for these kids, especially those who have stood up and fought the fight this season. We’re going to go out fighting.”
Many is not only the top dog in the district and Class 2A classification, but the Tigers could make a good case for being one of the top teams in the entire state with convincing wins against Class 4A and 5A foes.
Lakeview, who went on a four-game winning streak before a rash of injuries, including starting quarterback CJ Jones, derailed its season.
But, the Gators have so much to play for, including pride, as they face an uphill battle just a few miles west down Hwy. 6.
The monumental task at Many looks like this. The Tigers have averaged 316.4 yards of total offense per game.
Quarterback Tackett Curtis completes 67 percent of his passing attempts while running back Jeremiah James leads the backfield averaging 162.8 yards per game. The Tigers are only giving up 7.5 points per game to opponents and have recorded two consecutive shutouts in their last district outings against Jonesboro-Hodge and Red River.
Two opposite streaks would need to be reversed if Lakeview were to win. The Gators enter the finale on a 10-game district losing streak dating back to 2019, and Many has won its last 33 district contests going back nearly a decade.
CREDIT: Elizabeth Yopp/St. Mary’s Media Relations