Strong start for SJ-O defense — a shutout
ST. JOSEPH — No Dalton Walsh. No problem.
Even with St. Joseph-Ogden’s starting quarterback last year serving the first of a two-game suspension for what coach Dick Duval said was a violation of team rules, the Spartans cruised 47-0.
Thanks in large part to its defense. And a solid half of running the ball by Austin Hedrick.
“Our game plan was really good, and we all got to the ball,” said Wyatt Sage, a senior linebacker for SJ-O who had two of the Spartans’ nine tackles for losses on the night. “Our defensive line just took care of it, and then our linebackers, safeties and cornerbacks just came up and made the plays.”
Sage, Hedrick and defensive lineman Nolan Woller had tackles for loss on three straight plays during Marshall’s second drive to establish the tone.
SJ-O limited Marshall to one first down, and it came on a halfback option pass late in the first half with the Spartans already leading 33-0.
The Spartans — who scored on five of their first six possessions in the first half — outgained Marshall 307-27 yards in total offense.
“I thought we flowed to the ball real well,” Duval said. “They didn’t have any big plays that broke us. For a first game, I’m pleased with our defense. I thought we did some good things, and hopefully we can build on that.”
Hedrick rushed for 133 yards on 12 carries, including touchdown runs of 2 and 26 yards.
Sophomore Eli Oltean, making the start in place of Walsh, completed 2 of 6 passes for 44 yards, including a 21-yard touchdown off a screen pass to Connor Janes with 2 minutes, 57 seconds remaining in the first quarter that extended SJ-O’s lead to 20-0.
Oltean didn’t show any nerves during his opening series, completing a 23-yard pass to Jake Stewart on the game’s first play.
“We didn’t want to throw him to the wolves early,” Duval said. “That first pass was good for him and got him going.”
SJ-O went up 40-0 within the first two minutes of the third quarter. Orion Ciota came off the left edge to block a punt that Janes scooped up and scored from 13 yards out to set off a running clock. And give his backfield of Hedrick, Ciota (37 rushing yards on six carries) and Janes some rest. Jake Renfrew added 67 rushing yards on two carries, including a 58-yard touchdown run for the game’s final score.
“We’ve got three kids that can run the ball quite a bit for us this year,” Duval said. “Hopefully we can spread it out a little bit more, too. After we got a couple of touchdowns, I didn’t want to get wild and crazy, so we kept it kind of basic.”