The Fremont St. Joseph Central Catholic football team came to Norwalk for Saturday’s non-league game vs. St. Paul with an interior line that averaged 240-plus pounds on both sides of the ball.
“They lived up to the billing,” St. Paul coach John Livengood said. “They were big and physical, and loaded up on us up front — so we had to go to play action.”
In turn, St. Paul senior quarterback Jake Griffin delivered in a big way. Griffin completed 17-of-23 passes for 257 yards and three touchdown passes — that were all almost identical in distance — in a 42-0 win for the Flyers (2-0) over the Crimson Streaks (1-1).
And while he threw 23 passes officially, Griffin was also sacked on five other called pass attempts as the Crimson Streaks made things difficult up front.
“We had to go the air, and we know Jake’s capable of doing that, and he had a real nice game for us,” Livengood said. “Some of our new faces got to face some tough challenges on defense. St. Joe’s defensive line was legit — they’ve got some real nice players over there.
“We had a tough time figuring them out,” he added. “They were very aggressive defensively, and they put a lot of guys on the line of scrimmage. When that happens, you have to be able to execute play action passing.”
The Flyers scored on their first possession of the game. St. Paul was faced with fourth-and-3 at the SJCC 38 — but the Crimson Streaks jumped offsides to give the Flyers a first down.
Three plays later, Griffin found Eric Crabbs in stride going toward the right corner of the end zone for a 31-yard touchdown pass. The first of six Griffin PATs gave the Flyers a 7-0 lead at the 6:50 mark of the first quarter.
Each team then traded three possessions in a sluggish first half, but the Flyers got back in the scoring column with a 63-yard drive in the second quarter.
Griffin and Crabbs connected again on a similar pattern, with Crabbs slipping past the SJCC secondary for a 29-yard TD pass and catch. That put St. Paul up 14-0 with 8:12 left in the half — but neither team was able to produce again the rest of the half.
Each team missed a field goal, as the Streaks had theirs blocked by Sam Meyer, while Griffin had a 44-yard attempt sail wide left with just eight seconds left in the half.
Though it was just a two-possession game at halftime, it felt like twice as much. The St. Paul defense limited SJCC to 35 yards on 23 plays and one first down in the first 24 minutes — and just 130 yards for the game.
“The defense played very, very well in every aspect,” Livengood said. “Our coverage, our pressure and run defense — I thought all three areas as far as the line, linebackers and secondary all played very well.”
The Flyers stalled on the opening possession of the third quarter — but Noah Good intercepted a Chase Harrison pass and returned it 22 yards to the St. Paul 45.
It took five plays, but this time Griffin found Ethan Blair across the middle, who had also slipped past the SJCC secondary. It went for a 30-yard TD pass, the third of the game, to put the Flyers up 21-0 with 7:49 left in the third.
“The big thing was handling their pressure, and we had to make some adjustments with our blocking schemes,” Livengood said. “Once we were able to do that, we were able to hit some big plays, and again, Jake did a nice job.”
In less than a four-minute span, the Flyers scored three times to go up by a running clock margin.
After a penalty put St. Paul at its own 3 — Cam Caizzo broke the game open. He took the handoff and ran toward the middle of the field, cut back to his right and circled around two SJCC defenders.
Caizzo then cutback to the middle of the field and outran three more SJCC defenders for a 97-yard TD run — the second-longest in program history. That put the Flyers up 28-0 at the 5:25 mark of the third.
After another three-and-out by the Streaks, Good scored on an 8-yard run to cap a 6-play, 60-yard scoring drive at the 2:19 mark of the third. That made it a 35-0 lead to start the running clock.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Crimson Streaks fumbled — with Meyer recovering at the SJCC 25. The very next play, Good burst through the middle and broke a tackle for a 25-yard TD run at the 1:33 mark for the final score of the game.
Caizzo ran 12 times for 159 yards and the long TD, while Good added 66 yards and the two TDs on nine attempts. Crabbs caught seven passes for 97 yards and 2 TDs, with Gavin Starcher adding two catches for 44 yards, and Blair two catches for 35 yards and a score.
Livengood noted the Flyers have to be more consistent before Friday’s big non-league game vs. Tiffin Calvert. The two teams met in the second round of the playoffs a year ago.
“We were just very inconsistent with how we were executing offensively,” Livengood said. “We finally settled down and got more consistent after talking through some schemes at halftime.
“We were able to get some things going in the third quarter and controlled it from there,” he added. “But we were very inconsistent, whether it was execution or penalties, as well as a turnover or two.”
SJCC 0 0 0 0 — 0
St. Paul 7 7 28 0 — 42
STP — Eric Crabbs 31 pass from Jake Griffin (Griffin kick)
STP — Crabbs 29 pass from Griffin (Griffin kick)
STP — Ethan Blair 30 pass from Griffin (Griffin kick)
STP — Cam Caizzo 97 run (Griffin kick)
STP — Noah Good 8 run (Griffin kick)
STP — Good 25 run (Griffin kick)