SOUTH BEND — Toiling in the trenches on both sides of the football for the better part of four quarters, South Bend Saint Joseph two-way lineman Michael Conery should’ve walked away Friday covered in mud and grass and maybe even a bit of blood.
Instead, after running around on the synthetic surface that is Father Bly Field, Conery settled for a whole lot of sweat. Oh, and a smile. On Senior Night. In September.
Conery and the Indians controlled the line of scrimmage when the game was there for the taking, which allowed Saint Joseph to take it. The Indians put together a big-time scoring drive when a big-time scoring drive was needed, then followed with a big-time defensive stop to even their record at 2-2 and win their Northern Indian Conference North Division opener, 21-14.
“We worked our butts off all week, getting ready to beat them up on the offensive and defensive lines,” Conery said. “That’s what we did.”
They did it by grinding it out. By playing with grit. It wasn’t always pretty, but neither is life down around where Conery spends most of his time. In piles. On the ground. Battling. Tackling. Competing.
Saint Joseph held Adams to 16 total yards — all rushing — in the fourth quarter. On the flipside, the Indians hammered out 84 yards — all rushing — the final 12 minutes. It was run the ball, stop the run, win the game. Saint Joseph did.
“We know that we’ve got to kick their butts up front and that’s what it’s going to take to win the game,” said the 6-foot-2, 260-pound Conery. “Every week, that’s what it’s going to take. We got ‘em.”
Adams arrived 3-0 — the first time that it opened a season with three wins since 2012 — but its three opponents were a combined 0-9. The 14 first-half points scored by the Indians were a season high for a game allowed by Adams. The Eagles had outscored their first three opponents by a combined score of 115-6.
Needed to deliver on both sides late in the fourth quarter of a tie game, the Indians delivered.
Having held Adams on a fourth-and-seven call from their 37, the home team took over with just over nine minutes remaining. When it’s winning time, the Saint Joe offensive line knows what to do — just get a sliver of a hole for tailback Asante Anglin and let the 5-9, 160-pounder do the rest.
If there’s a hole, Anglin’s going to hit it. Hard.
Anglin, who shook off two lost fumbles, including one where he looked to have crossed the end zone on the game’s opening drive, only to have it stripped by Eagles cornerback Chuck Worsham, found another gear in the fourth quarter. At a time when tired legs and burning legs and energy tanks near zero, Anglin ran as hard and as fast and as strong and as determined in the final 12 minutes as he did the first 12.
He was a handful, all arms and legs going every which way.
“I stay fresh drinking Gatorade, water,” said Anglin, who ran for 130 yards on 18 carries. “I’m just working, pushing my teammates so we can get the win.”
Anglin scurried for six yards on first down, then juked for 13 more two plays later. He tallied another 13 on another first down to put it first-and-goal from the Adams 8. Three plays later, which included two more Asante runs, he was in the end zone for the second time following a 3-yard score. That made it 21-14 with 5:56 left.
“We played together,” Anglin said. “We were talking, like, we can overcome. That’s what we did. I’m glad about that.”
The job was only half done. An Adams offense that proved it could move the ball with the effective run tandem of Worsham and quarterback Gavin Pulling getting direct snaps and then looking for open lanes, believed it had one more big drive to force overtime or, maybe even win it on a 2-point conversion.
One big drive, but the visitors never really had a chance. The Saint Joseph defense didn’t let them get loose. Three plays on the gotta-have drive gained seven yards. And when Pulling’s pass on fourth down fluttered to the turf, that was basically the ball game.
“We’ve got to keep making mistakes,” said Adams coach Antwon Jones. “They’re fighting, but young and learning and that’s what they’ve got to do, come back and decide what they’ve got to do and keep getting better.”
Anglin returned to help run out the clock and grind out some yards and move the chains on a first down until it was time for quarterback Matt Eck to take a knee. The Victory Formation never looked so sweet for a Saint Joe team that had opened the season 0-2 and wondering.
Two weeks and two wins later have the Indians believing. Adams came across town averaging 38.3 points per game, but managed only 14. It looked like it would get way more than that after the Eagles’ first offensive series. Following Worsham’s strip of Anglin, Adams marched 88 yards on 11 plays, 80 of those on the ground from Worsham, for a 7-0 lead.
Anglin insists it should’ve been 7-0 the other way. He ran to the sideline after the strip and watched the replay, insisting that he’d crossed the goal line with the ball still in his possession. What looked to be a long night for the Indian defense turned anything but. When they needed to make plays, they made plays. When they needed to get stops, they got stops. When they needed to get off the field on third and fourth down, they got off the field.
“Defensively, we flew to the football, we contained, we made the tackles when we needed to,” said junior defensive back Mattux Tarwacki, who was flying around and tackling all night. “Whenever we needed a stop, we were there.”
Adams had only two time-draining, yard-consuming drives — the first one in the first quarter and their only one in the third. That was it. That’s all they got. A lot of that doing was the determination of the home team.
“The guys are riding high,” said Indians coach Bryon Whitten. “It’s great for our morale. It’s great for our confidence. Adams has some big boys and they were physical and aggressive up front.”
The Indians were too. And were better. On both sides.
• SAINT JOSEPH 21, ADAMS 14
A — Chuck Worsham 18 run (Coen Coen kick)
SJ — Cedric Suggs 7 run (Jacob Deahl kick)
SJ — Asante Anglin 6 run (Deahl kick)
A — Worsham 4 run (Coen kick)
SJ — Anglin 3 run (Deahl kick)
Comp.-Att.-Int. 0-3-0 | 8-16-0
Penalties-Yards 4-30 | 5-31