This time there was no relieved exhale with the game apparently in hand.
That’s because there was scarcely a labored breath. And the game was never in question.
A week after taking their foot off the gas in a come-from-ahead loss to Robert Morris, No. 10 Saint Francis dropped the hammer and kept dropping it Saturday afternoon, throttling overmatched Concordia 54-0 at Bishop John M. D’Arcy Stadium.
It was a rare over-by-halftime pleasure cruise for the Cougars (6-2, 3-1 MFSA MEL), who started a trifle sluggishly but scored 24 points in the second quarter to leave the visiting Cardinals (1-7, 0-4) for dead and provide a launch point for games against Taylor and Marian that will likely decide the conference.
“We played the whole game. We played 60 minutes,” Saint Francis coach Kevin Donley said. “We’re going to have to play 60 minutes from here on out. Can’t play a quarter or half. We’re playing for a conference championship the next two weeks now.”
Saturday, they were playing for retribution, and they got it. David Yoder threw for 260 yards and two touchdowns in another stellar relief appearance; Cam Smith had 114 receiving yards and two scores; and running backs Aaron Harris and Jalen Campbell managed to do something Cougars running backs have found difficult this season: They didn’t get hurt.
They also combined for 167 yards and four touchdowns, part of a day when the news was pretty much all good. Campbell ran for 90 yards and a touchdown and Harris for 77 and three scores. Keith Harris blocked two punts.
And the defense forced four turnovers, limited Concordia to 190 yards and never allowed the Cardinals closer than the Saint Francis 28.
“This whole week we all had a pretty sour taste in our mouth from last week,” Smith said. “Today we wanted to make an emphasis on getting on them early and putting some points on the board because we were up on ’em early last week and kind of went flat. So we wanted to emphasize keeping the foot on the pedal and keep going.”
“We were told all week to step on their throats and finish the game,” Aaron Harris said.
In the end, it was the other Harris, Keith, who got the Cougars going. Midway through the first quarter, he blocked a punt and the Cougars recovered at the Concordia 28. On the next play, Aaron Harris got all 28 yards in one gulp to make it 7-0 with 6:42 to play in the quarter.
“Big momentum changer,” Smith said.
Apparently so. From there, Yoder came on for Wes Hunsucker to begin the second quarter, and four plays later hit Smith for 54 yards and a score down the home sideline. It was the beginning of a 24-point quarter that sent the Cougars to halftime with a 31-0 lead began the emptying of the bench in earnest.
“Kids played hard,” Donley said. “We had some guys step up. We’re getting there.”