St. Anne’s-Belfield coach John Blake has been around a lot of football games, but the surreal experience of Friday’s 64-56 victory over Greenbrier Christian ranks up there.
“It was probably the most exciting football game I’ve ever been involved in,” Blake said. “It was unbelievable.”
It was unbelievable right up until the final whistle, including the Saints’ wild finish.
“Myles (Ward) rolls his ankle at the beginning of the fourth quarter and sits out until he comes back in and runs the punt back,” Blake said. “We won the game on a punt return where he breaks like 12 tackles. The whole thing was crazy.”
Ward’s 60-yard, rumbling sprint to the house capped 22 straight points in the final five minutes by the Saints to storm back from 14 points down with two Chase Emmert touchdown runs to tie the game and then the go ahead touchdown with 19 seconds to play when Ward found his way into the endzone.
Emmert was impressive throughout, but particularly strong as STAB scored 30 fourth quarter points, including three Emmert touchdowns as he ran for 172 yards and five total touchdowns on 25 carries. He also threw for 83 yards and two touchdowns.
“Chase had an overall great night,” Blake said. “He threw the ball really well and he ran the ball really great. He made some great reads on the option.”
Greenbrier Christian coach Tommy Austin had more familiarity than Blake did with the eight-man game going into the game and the Gators scrimmaged against some eight-man teams during the preseason. That led to some defensive struggles for the Saints as they struggled to adjust to playing so much man-to-man coverage like most any high school team would. It was also difficult to generate a pass rush as the Gators’ passing attack led by quarterback Luke Bussel got going, with Bussell dropping way back and scrambling around until some receiver came open. Bussel threw for 220 yards and four touchdowns on just 7-for-14 passing. He also ran for 156 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries.
“He scrambled around the whole time and we couldn’t tackle him and then he’d throw the ball,” Blake said.
STAB had to overcome four turnovers as well, losing two fumbles and a pair of interceptions during the wild contest.
“I can tell you now that if I were watching the game I’d love it,” Blake said. “It was so fast, something is happening all the time.”
STAB led just 28-26 at the half after a Bussel touchdown toss with 25 seconds left in the first half pulled the Gators within two. Greenbrier then blocked a punt and recovered for a touchdown in the third quarter and scored twice on the ground in the frame to build the 48-34 lead. That set the stage for the Saints’ heroics.
Ward finished with 69 yards on four catches for the Saints. Amani Woods picked up 48 yards on nine touches while Joe Ambrosi chipped in 37 yards and Gabe Decker had 32.