SAYLOR It was nearly over before it hardly started.
Saydel almost gift-wrapped Friday's Class 3A football game during the opening minutes of the contest. The Eagles fumbled five times, four of which came on their first four possessions, during their homecoming contest that featured a pair of 1-2 teams.
South Tama's defense helped cause some of the fumbles, but it recovered all five to help its team end a two-game skid. Meanwhile, South Tama's offense took advantage of field position early in the game to build a big lead. STC (2-2) led 42-0 before Saydel (1-3) crossed the 50-yard line before going on to win the game 56-16.
A handful of South Tama special teams players point in the direction of their offense after STC senior Dylan Kalinay, far left, recovered Saydel’s opening kickoff return fumble. South Tama recovered five Saydel fumbles during the first half en route to crushing the Eagles, 56-16, on their homecoming.
"(Saydel) did us some favors tonight," STC coach Jay Hoskey said. "I think we were ready to play and well prepared, but they helped us out. I don't know if we caused the turnovers, but we got them. When you get turnovers the first four times and a short field, which is something we haven't had all year, it makes our job easier. I wish we could have saved those for a couple of other games, but you get them when you get them. We punched it in and really put the game away before it really got going."
Sophomores Jerry Lowe and Bubba Craun made the most of their additional carries at running back Friday. With starting running back junior Bo Blocker out with an injury, Lowe and Craun ran all over the Eagles. They combined to rush for more than 200 yards and score seven of the eight Trojans' touchdowns.
Lowe carried the ball 13 times for 118 yards and score five touchdowns in the victory. Craun nearly matched him with 11 carries for 98 yards and two touchdowns.
"It was really fun," Lowe said. "I just ran hard and gave my best effort for the team. It was nice to start and I was ready for it."
The Trojans' coach was proud of both sophomores, knowing their best is yet to come.
"They're a couple sophomores that we're working with back there," he said. "We also have a sophomore who caught a big, long pass. That's the future. We're hoping that those guys can keep improving, because they'll make a lot of plays for us."
The South Tama running backs showed their potential early Friday night. Saydel fumbled the opening kickoff and STC senior Dylan Kalinay recovered at the Eagles' 11 yard line. STC ran two running play, both were carries from Lowe, and scored a touchdown less than a minute into the game.
Two plays after the ensuing kickoff, Saydel's Dylan Coffin fumbled for the second time in two minutes of action. Kalinay recoverd his second fumble before South Tama drove 41 yards in three plays to score again. Lowe broke a 29-yard run for his second touchdown.
Saydel ran two offensive plays before a negative play turned into a fumble and turnover. STC senior Drew Lacina recovered at the Saydel 17 yard line. Lowe scored on three-yard rush just three plays later and gave STC a 21-0 lead.
The nightmare continued for Saydel. Kalinay forced a fumble and STC senior Garrett Hoskey recovered the ball three plays after the kickoff. Hoskey nearly scored on the recovery, but he was tackled on the Eagles' 11 yard line. Lowe scored his fourth touchdown on a one-yard run.
"Jerry is an athlete who works hard and comes to practice every day," Hoskey said. "He does exactly what you tell him. He has some gifts from God. I'm excited about his progress and about watching him play for two more years."
South Tama led 28-0 less than seven minutes into the contest. STC's offense gained 85 yards in four drives after taking advantage of four Saydel fumbles.
Trailing 28-0, the Eagles finally punted to the Trojans, but STC senior Tristan Beyer returns the ball to the STC 45 yard line. Lowe ran the ball 20 yards on first down and Craun followed it up with a 35-yard touchdown run to take a 35-0 lead with 2:32 remaining in the first quarter.
The game became out of reach just a few minutes later. Saydel ran the ball twice for nine yards each on its next drive. Then the Eagles' Coffin fumbled for the third time and Lowe recovered for South Tama. Five plays later, Lowe scored his fifth and final touchdown on a 10-yard run. His score gave STC a 42-0 lead less than a minute into the second quarter.
"Once they fumbled it, we knew we were going to score," Craun said. "That really helped.
"Our linemen were making huge holes for us tonight," he added. "It all starts up there. You could drive a semi through those holes."
South Tama gave many junior varsity players a chance to be a part of Friday's action during the second and fourth quarters. Both teams exchanged drives during the second quarter before Saydel added eight points before halftime on a safety and touchdown.
"You lose a bit of luster or fire when you get up that much that quickly," Hoskey said. "You start to think the game is gone. We got a chance to experiment with some other kids to see what they can do. That was the nice part about it."
The safety came when South Tama snapped the ball over sophomore Cody Kellogg's head and into the end zone, where Kellogg fell on it. The touchdown came on the ensuing drive. It was a four-yard run by sophomore Dylan Coffin. The PAT was blocked by STC junior Dylan Musgrave. Kalinay returned the ensuing kickoff 96 yards for a touchdown, giving STC a 49-8 advantage at half.
"In the last week and a half, especially the last week, our second string guys have taken it up a notch," Hoskey said. "We're starting to get more out of them and they're starting to compete with the starters in practice when we scrimmage, which is going to make us so much better. We don't dress many guys, but most of those guys can play. That's what we have to get, because those guys are going to be our future."
Both teams scored once in the second half, despite a mercy-rule running clock. Saydel scored first on a one-yard quarterback sneak by junior Clayton Sommers. South Tama responded with a scoring drive that Craun finished with a two-yard run. Neither team scored in the fourth quarter.
"We're getting a little bit better each week with our offense," Hoskey said. "We're learning what we're doing and little things are making the big difference right now. I think those guys did a good job up front."
South Tama hosts Ballard (3-2) at 7:30 p.m. Friday for its homecoming game.
"I'm always leering of homecoming," Hoskey said. "It's a great time for a kid. I just hope our kids prepare the right way and go into the game thinking that if we win, it gives us a shot to get in the playoffs. I think we're still on the climb as far as us getting better."