St. Paul had done everything it could to keep the potent Tiffin Calvert offense off the field in the first half of Friday’s big non-league game at Whitney Field.
But in the second half, the Senecas got big play after big play — and stopped the Flyers on fourth-and-goal twice inside the 5-yard line. The end result was a 33-14 win by Calvert — which snapped a 29-game regular season win streak by St. Paul.
The last time the Flyers lost in the regular season was in Week 3 at Huron on Sept. 11, 2015 — a 7-6 setback. The last home loss prior to Friday was Week 3 of 2014, a 14-7 loss vs. Huron on Sept. 13, 2014.
“Calvert is a very good, well-coached team that executed better than us,” St. Paul coach John Livengood said. “They did a good job of controlling the line of scrimmage and made plays when they had to, and we didn’t.”
Trailing 14-6 at halftime — the Senecas had ran just 17 plays in the first 24 minutes compared to 46 snaps for the Flyers.
But Calvert quickly covered 62 yards in seven plays, with Austin Rombach scoring from a yard out with 9:27 left in the third quarter. Austin Jones ran in the conversion to tie the game at 14.
On the next drive for the Senecas (3-0), the Flyers were in position for a defensive stop with a third-and-10 at the St. Paul 40.
With Jones (1,980 yards, 24 TDs in 2017) commanding the attention of the Flyer defense, it was Trent Cooper having a huge night from the quarterback position. He scrambled and covered the 40 yards for the go-ahead TD, though the conversion attempt was fumbled for a 20-14 lead with 5:25 left in the third quarter.
The game then swung for good on St. Paul’s next possession. Another 17-play drive ended with a fourth-and-goal at the Calvert 2 — but Cam Caizzo was thrown for a loss to give the ball back to the Senecas.
Calvert then promptly moved 97 yards in 12 plays, with Cooper scoring from four yards out for a 26-14 lead with 4:43 left.
St. Pal again put together a nice drive, but a fourth-and-goal pass from the 12 by Jake Griffin to Noah Good was stopped at the Calvert 3.
Cooper then put the feather in the cap, breaking free up the middle for a 93-yard TD run with 1:19 left to close out the scoring.
“I think the key thing was for them to come out and score on that first drive,” Livengood said of the third quarter. “We needed to regain the momentum, and we were unable to do that offensively. Then we come back out on another drive and get inside the 2 and fail to convert … that’s when things got tense going down two scores.
“But I felt we did a lot of good things in the first half, though we still missed on some things,” he added. “But we were in control of things. Then they grabbed control in the third quarter. But give credit to them and their coaching staff. They did a great job.”
St. Paul (2-1) had opened the game with a 17-play, 65-yard scoring drive that took 7:07 of the first quarter clock. The Flyers converted four third downs and once on fourth down as Caizzo scored from a yard out.
The Griffin PAT made it 7-0 at the 4:53 mark of the first, but the Senecas answered on the second drive with 58 yards covered in eight plays.
He scored from 11 yards out with 8:48 left in the first half, but the Senecas missed the PAT to trail 7-6. St. Paul then had a nearly six-minute drive stall at the Calvert 20 when a fourth-and-three run was thrown for a loss.
But on the very next play, Jones fumbled, and Eric Crabbs picked it up and returned it 14 yards to the Calvert 9.
On third-and-goal, Griffin rolled to his right and found tight end Jesse Ruffing for a 3-yard TD pass and a 14-6 lead with just 1:31 left in the first half.
St. Paul had another chance for points to end the half yet. Getting a quick three-and-out, the Flyers got the ball back with 21 seconds left — and Griffin connected with Good for 33 yards to the Calvert 12 — but a 29-yard field goal attempt by Griffin to end the half was just wide right.
After running three times for 17 yards in the first half, Cooper exploded for 158 yards on six rushes in the second half with four TDs total. Jones added 122 yards on 16 attempts.
“Keeping Jones and Cooper contained is not easy for anybody,” Livengood said. “Ball control in the first half and keeping their offense on the sidelines was something we needed to do. We couldn’t do that in the second half and they were able to finish drives.
“We had opportunities to make those plays to finish drives and didn’t — and they did,” he added. “Give credit to them for a great effort on their part.”
For St. Paul, Griffin was 20-of-32 passing for 187 yards, with Eric Crabbs catching eight passes for 64 yards, and Gavin Starcher had six catches for 52 yards.
Caizzo ran 24 times for 105 yards and a score, while Good added 23 attempts for 68 yards.
St. Pal hosts New London in the Firelands Conference opener next Saturday in Norwalk.
Calvert 0 6 14 13 — 33
St. Paul 7 7 0 0 — 14
STP — Cam Caizzo 1 run (Jake Griffin kick)
CAL — Trent Cooper 11 run (kick failed)
STP — Jesse Ruffing 3 pass from Griffin (Griffin kick)
CAL — Austin Rombach 1 run (Austin Jones run)
CAL — Cooper 40 run (run failed)
CAL — Cooper 4 run (run failed)
CAL — Cooper 93 run (Quinten Ronski kick)