UPLAND – He told them there would be adversity here, and darned if on this day that didn’t make him as much Carnac the Magnificent Kevin Donley as Football Coach Kevin Donley.
There was Josh Miller lighting it up in his first start in three weeks, and then his killjoy ankle turning out the lights again.
There was a two-touchdown lead that melted like butter on an August sidewalk.
There were eight penalties for 65 yards, and one touchdown called back, and another sure six that went through the most dependable pair of hands on the team. There was a light year of possession time for the other guys in the second half.
And there, eventually, somehow, was a 20-12 victory for the Saint Francis Cougars over the Taylor Trojans (4-5, 2-3) that sets up a showdown with Marian next week for the conference title.
Some Saturday for the Cougars (7-2, 4-1). Some seer Donley turned out to be.
I figured it would be like this, I really did, he said. They’ve got good kids, class kids, and they play hard. We had to do the same thing.
And we did it.
They did it thanks to a running back who was a defensive back three weeks ago (Jalen Campbell), and to two rushing touchdowns and a 14-of-19, 147-yard day from Miller, who played only a half before his ankle tightened up again. And they did it thanks to a defense that limited Taylor to a field goal in the second half even though the Trojans had the football for nearly 18 of the 30 minutes.
That left it up to a Cougars’ offense that was blunted numerous times – most notably when Cam Smith dropped a sure six from David Yoder pass in the end zone – but finally embarked on a five-play, 59-yard drive that culminated in Campbell’s 21-yard score with 2:24 to play.
Coach Donley preaches all the time about overcoming adversity, said Campbell, who ran for all but 18 of his 97 yards in the second half. Coach kept saying we’re going to get one big run, and it finally came.
So did the big defensive play.
Although Taylor had the ball for more than 31 minutes, they managed just 231 total yards. The Cougars intercepted three passes, and Kory Stamps had two, including one in the fourth quarter that triggered the Cougars’ scoring drive.
Then, after the extra point spanked off the left upright, leaving it a one-score game, the defense rose up one last time to force a three-and-out and end the suspense.
We knew the dump pass was not going to beat us, Stamps said. They’re going to have to take a shot eventually, (so) we just have to make the plays that we need to, the big plays, because that’s what wins games.
Sure did this time.
Defense really stepped up today, Donley said. Miller came out hot, and then his ankle tightened up, so we were back in the same boat. Dave does a good job coming in. And Jalen did a super job.
Bring on Marian.