But the end result was a familiar one Saturday for the St. Paul football team.
The Flyers scored twice in a 57-second span in the first quarter, and steadily pulled away from host St. Mary Central Catholic in a 37-6 win on Saturday at Strobel Field in Sandusky.
St. Paul (1-0) has won 12 straight games over the Panthers since 2007, with the all-time series now nearly dead even at 32-31-4 in favor of SMCC.
The Flyers fumbled the ball away to the Panthers three times and threw an interception — and played through a couple key injuries.
However, even with many new faces in the lineup — the result was never in question.
“We’re trying to get better, and to make that many mistakes and still win by 31 —I’m glad to come away with the win,” St. Paul coach John Livengood said. “We did a lot of good things, but made a lot of mistakes.
“The turnovers was probably the biggest thing that is concerning to me,” he added. “We have to take care better care of the football. I’m sure once we take a look back there will be a lot of fundamental things that we need to continue to learn and get better with.”
The Flyers took their opening possession of the season with 12 consecutive running plays that covered 56 yards in 5:05 of game time. Cam Caizzo capped the drive with a 7-yard scoring run, and the first of three Jake Griffin extra points made it 7-0.
In an ominous start, the Panthers fumbled on their first offensive play from scrimmage to begin the season. St. Paul’s Noah Good managed to keep the ball from going out of bounds, and recovered it at the SMCC 12-yard line.
Three plays later, Caizzo pushed across from a yard out to make it 14-0 at the 5:49 mark of the first quarter.
After Sam Meyer recovered a fumble at the St. Paul 47 to stop a decent SMCC drive, the Flyers reached inside the Panthers 10 — but did not convert on third down. Earlier in the drive, a Griffin-to-Gavin Starcher 29-yard TD pass was negated on a holding penalty.
That set up Griffin for a 26-yard field goal attempt, which he booted through the uprights with ease for a 17-0 lead with 9:42 left in the first half.
St. Paul’s ensuing drive also begin at its own 47. But this time, the Flyers finished it off in just four plays. Griffin connected with Eric Crabbs for a 36-yard gain to the SMCC 3, and Caizzo covered that distance for his third score of the half and a 24-0 lead at the 6:59 mark of the second.
“They just keep blowing off the ball, and that’s a St. Paul team coached by John Livengood,” SMCC coach Toby Notestine said. “With John, we told the kids all week long — if you want to see page two of his playbook — you have to stop page one.
“And if you don’t, then you’re going to get page one all night long,” he added. “That’s just how it is. That’s what good programs do, and they obviously have another nice team that is so well-coached.”
The Panthers responded moments after falling behind by 24, however. Everett Samstag followed his lead blockers and found a gap on the second play of the drive, and he did the rest on a 74-yard TD run.
The kick was blocked to leave the deficit at 24-6 with 6:15 left in the half.
St. Paul got one last chance for points on the board, as Livengood sent out Griffin to try a 53-yard field goal attempt with three seconds left in the half.
With the wind at his back, Griffin got every bit of the ball — only to see it hit the bottom crossbar and bounce back out on what would have been a school record field goal.
In the second half, Griffin was held out for precautionary reasons from an injury. Starcher shifted over under center for the final two quarters.
Caizzo scored his fourth TD on a 31-yard run on the Flyers first drive of the third quarter, but the kick hit the post to leave the score at 30-6 at the 8:43 mark. The junior running back added a fifth and final TD with just 1:24 left in the game from eight yards out, and Tyler Perkins connected on the PAT for the final 37-6 margin.
Defensively, St. Paul limited SMCC to 87 yards total aside from the 74-yard TD run.
Caizzo ran 24 times for 144 yards to go with his five TDs, while Good added 123 yards, also on 24 attempts. Griffin was 4-of-4 passing for 74 yards and an interception prior to leaving the game, with Starcher and Crabbs each catching a pair of passes for 33 and 41 yards, respectively.
“We weren’t consistent running the ball,” Livengood said. “I think we’re going to see good things from Jake, we just decided to err on the side of caution and not take any risks at halftime with him.
“Gavin did a great job filling in and we have a lot of confidence in him to play any position,” he added. “But I was really happy with his leadership of the offense. Noah ran the ball really hard. I’m sure on the film we’re going to see some really good efforts on both sides — and I’m sure plenty to work on.”
St. Paul will have its home opener on Saturday against Fremont St. Joseph, a 24-14 winner last Friday over Cardinal Stritch.
St. Paul 14 10 6 7 — 37
SMCC 0 6 0 0 — 6
STP — Cam Caizzo 7 run (Jake Griffin kick)
STP — Caizzo 1 run (Griffin kick)
STP — Griffin 26 field goal
STP — Caizzo 3 run (Griffin kick)
STM — Everett Samstag 74 run (kick blocked)
STP — Caizzo 31 run (kick failed)
STP — Caizzo 8 run (Tyler Perkins kick)