JAMAICA – Playmakers have a way of coming up with big plays when their team needs them most. The St. Joseph-Ogden Spartans have a plethora of athletes with the ability to break open a football game.
The Spartans, ranked No. 1 in Class 3A, used the big play early and often Friday night to turn away a determined Salt Fork team 41-6 at Bob Yeazel Field.
"Basically we always talk about how we need that one spark to get us going," SJ-O senior Lukas Graves said. "Everybody wants to be that guy, and fortunately we've had a lot of guys that have been able to make that big play."
Against the Storm, Graves and teammate Tyler Johnson took turns turning heads. Johnson thwarted Salt Fork's opening drive with an interception in the end zone. That set the stage for Graves, who capped an 11-play, 98-yard drive with a 33-yard, over-the-shoulder touchdown catch.
"I think the interception was definitely the biggest play," Graves said. "Tyler Johnson had an awesome game. He stepped up and made the pick and that turned it around for us."
On the Spartans' second drive, Johnson connected with senior wideout Blaize Cumbow for a 78-yard scoring strike for a 14-0 lead.
In the second period, Graves returned a punt 64 yards for a score and Johnson ran 10 yards with 14 seconds left in the half for a 28-0 lead.
"I don't know if we practice them, but we're fortunate to have people with the ability to make them (big plays)," SJ-O coach Dick Duval said. "We've been very, very lucky in our program in that we've had playmakers, and they stepped it up again tonight when we needed them."
Will Lindsey had two touchdown runs and finished with 146 yards rushing on 25 carries.
J.D. Learnard completed 6 of 15 passes for 131 yards for Salt Fork.
"We said all week that we couldn't allow them the big plays on offense or on special teams, and they were able to get some tonight," Salt Fork coach Brian Plotner said. "I thought there were four huge big plays in the first half that led directly to touchdowns."
Johnson completed 5 of 9 passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns, and Graves hauled in four passes for 93 yards.
Plotner, whose squad hosts Vermilion Valley Conference rival Westville next Friday night, was encouraged by his banged-up team's attitude in the second half.
"I'm very pleased," Plotner said. "You have to give these kids a lot of credit for just absolutely refusing to roll over."