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Robin Scholz/The News-Gazette St. Joseph-Ogden's Brayden Weaver(5) and St. Thomas More's Dawson Magrini (11) in a prep football game at SJO High School on Friday, August 30, 2019.Robin Scholz/The News-Gazette St. Joseph-Ogden's Brayden Weaver(5) and St. Thomas More's Dawson Magrini (11) in a prep football game at SJO High School on Friday, August 30, 2019.

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ST. JOSEPH — Jarrett Stevenson found himself in an unfamiliar position prior to Friday night’s season-opening football game between St. Joseph-Ogden and St. Thomas More.

The Spartans senior was the bona fide go-to option in his team’s backfield.

“I was the most excited I’ve ever been for a football game,” Stevenson said.

Then, the visiting Sabers drained more than 81 / 2 minutes off the first-quarter clock with a 65-yard drive into the south end zone.

Having to wait a little longer to start his job as No. 1 running back didn’t dent Stevenson’s enthusiasm.

Stevenson plowed his way to 173 yards, four touchdowns and three two-point conversions on the ground as SJ-O scored all of the points after STM’s initial salvo, winning the Illini Prairie Conference opener 36-8.

“I was expecting to do well, but nowhere near what I did,” Stevenson said, “and I contribute that all to my offensive line and my fullbacks.”

Fourth-year SJ-O coach Shawn Skinner needed someone to replace the now-graduated Dwight Colvin and his 1,125 ground yards from 2018.

The Spartans (1-0, 1-0 Illini Prairie) have their man in Stevenson, who during Friday’s second quarter dragged a Sabers defender several yards en route to a 17-yard paydirt plunge.

“He’s a strong kid. He’s a strong runner,” Skinner said. “He has an incredible desire to be successful. We need him to be that guy.”

Stevenson produced 121 yards on 11 first-half totes. The effort from SJ-O’s No. 6 outpaced that of STM starting quarterback Eivory Shellman — also No. 6 — as he netted 25 yards on 11 rushes in the same stretch.

Despite recording a 5-yard running touchdown early, Shellman eventually was replaced under center by Jason Brown after losing one fumble and failing to execute a pitch play for another lost ball.

“(The Spartans) did make some good adjustments on both offense and defense, and you’ve got to give them credit,” STM coach Nathan Watson said. “From my perspective, though, we recognized the adjustments. We’ve got to be more disciplined with the ball.”

One aspect that went right for the Sabers (0-1, 0-1) was shutting down SJ-O quarterback Crayton Burnett.

Adonai Bumba picked off a Burnett throw in the second quarter, and Burnett was sacked three times on the night.

“We have to be a lot better,” Skinner said. “Crayton’s a good quarterback, and we have to utilize him. And we will.”

On this night, it wasn’t required.

Stevenson, complemented by a Brayden Weaver 34-yard running score, proved too much for STM to handle.

That meant a lot of hearing his own name coming across the public-address system — if he could hear it amid the milk jug-shaking student section.

“It’s crazy what I did,” Stevenson said. “I can’t hear to wait more of my name being called from that intercom.”

Colin Likas is prep sports coordinator at The News-Gazette. His email is clikas@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).

Prep Sports Coordinator

Colin Likas is prep sports coordinator at The News-Gazette. His email is clikas@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).