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Late Saint touchdown beats Mustangs

St. Vincent quarterback Jack Richardson tries to elude a Saint Helena tackler.

SCOTT MANCHERST/ARGUS-COURIER STAFF
Published: Monday, September 16, 2013 at 7:23 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, September 16, 2013 at 7:23 p.m.

In a game filled with missed opportunities visiting Saint Helena finally took full advantage of a pivotal turnover and went on to hold off St. Vincent, 12-7, at Yarborough Field in front of a big crowd in the Mustang home opener.

Trailing, 7-6, in the late stages of the third quarter, the Saints (2-1) got a big break after they were forced to punt by an aroused St. Vincent defense. A short punt floated in front of the Mustang receiver who raced in toward the twisting ball, but it glanced off of his hands into a wave of diving Saints on the 35 yard-line in St. Vincent territory.

With their backs against the wall, the Mustangs again yielded yardage grudgingly, and the Saints were forced to use four downs to move the chains on two series of plays. After pivotal gains by running back Sebastian Segura, the Saints finally scored a go-ahead touchdown when quarterback Jack Preston got around the corner on a five-yard gallop.

St. Vincent coach Gary Galloway accepted the blame for the fumble by his receiving team. “It happened in Cloverdale last week, and we didn't make any adjustments,” he said after the game. “We have got to work on that. It's a matter of confidence now. I believe that all the kids on our receiving team were all working hard on that play.”

The Mustang defense performed heroically in forcing four fumbles by the favored Saint running backs. On the last turnover, the Mustangs finally capitalized and put together an effective offense from the Saint Helena 38-yard line.

St. Vincent opened the series with a 16-yard completion from senior quarterback Jack Richardson to versatile Derek Murphy. Running plays by Murphy and George Sammon got the ball close to the 10-yard line on third down. Richardson headed to the sideline on the critical next play, and willed his way to a first down that was close enough to be measured.

With encouragement from the energized St. Vincent crowd, Sammon suddenly got around the left corner on an 11-yard running play, and the junior went into the end zone standing to tie the score at 6-6. The PAT by Richardson sailed through the uprights and into the trees which closely border the tight playing field.

Overall the Mustangs had a difficult day on offense, as they were forced to punt nine times. The good news was the work of punter Sean Healy, who routinely kicked the ball out of trouble, including a monster 51-yard kick that pinned the Saints inside the 10-yard line.

Murphy had a workman-like day on both offense and defense for the Mustangs. It was Murphy who pounced on the final Saint fumble to set up the only St. Vincent touchdown of the day.

One of the biggest disappointments of the afternoon for St. Vincent came during a later drive when Richardson bought enough time by scrambling, and found Murphy in back of the Saint secondary for 46 yards, but the play was called back on a penalty.

Murphy also made a terrific running play when he reversed his field and appeared to run through the entire St. Helena student body before he was collared after nine well-deserved yards.

“We might have had better running backs here at St. Vincent, but I can not recall anybody with more heart,” Galloway said of Murphy.

The Saint defense was stacked to stop Murphy, but the workhorse running back finished with 109 all-purpose yards for the day.

“The whole defensive team did a good job today,” Galloway added.

Junior Justin Sablick was credited with two fumble recoveries while Zach Sitchler pounced on another one to give the Mustangs the ball.

Murphy, Sitchler, Healy and lineman Danny Rodriguez all made critical defensive stops for the Mustangs. Sitchler finished with 13 individual tackles.

One of the big plays of the day was a fourth down sack by Rodriguez in the Saint backfield that helped turn the ball over to the hosts in the first half.

The victory was the fourth consecutive win by Saint Helena over the Mustangs in the current series. The defeat ends a streak of seven regular-season wins for St. Vincent (2-1).

Saint Helena completely dominated the first half by spending most of the early afternoon in Mustang territory. Segura had a big day on the ground with 101 yards and a touchdown before intermission. He finished with 204 yards for the game.

Four pass completions from Preston to rangy wide receiver Gaitlin Blakely for 58 yards also helped kept Saint drives alive.

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