Bluffton trumps MSJ 14-7 for first win over Lions since 2001
BLUFFTON, Ohio - The Beavers won their third game of the season on Saturday, Sept. 22, defeating the Mount St. Joseph Lions, 14-7, at Salzman Stadium. It marked the first time the Beavers (3-1, 2-0 HCAC) had beaten the Lions since 2001, a string of 10 straight setbacks at the hands of MSJ. It is the first time since 2000 that Bluffton has opened the season 3-1 and 2-0 in the HCAC.
Battling through rainy and muddy conditions, neither side was able to find the end zone in the first quarter as each team was forced to punt the ball twice. It was not until the 7:55 mark of the second quarter that junior Airic Steagall (Hillsboro) crossed the goal line from five yards out, sparking the home team to a 7-0 lead after Austin Sweeney (Adrian, Mich./Whitmer) connected on the extra point.
The Bluffton defense continued to hold Mount in check, keeping them off the scoreboard for the duration of the first half for a 7-0 lead at the break.
Bluffton went three plays on its first possession and fumbled at midfield after a lightning delay extended halftime by 40 minutes. It was the second straight home game that storms have caused delays this season. A nine-play, 49-yard Mount drive ended with a four-yard touchdown trot by MSJ senior standout James Clay. The PAT was good and the score was knotted at 7-7 just 5:13 into the second half.
The defenses held for the next quarter-and-a-half until Steagall scored his second rushing touchdown of the day, this time a seven-yarder. Sweeney's extra point moved the score to 14-7 with 4:50 remaining in the game. On the ensuing Mount possession, Tyler Hensley (Batavia) picked off a Jason Stinebaugh pass at the Bluffton seven yard-line and returned it to the Bluffton 42, sealing the second straight Heartland Conference victory for the Beavers.
Steagall led the Beaver ground attack, picking up 81 yards on 17 carries and scoring twice. Freshman Calib Alexander (Ocala, Fla./St. John Lutheran) ran the ball 18 times for 65 yards.
Tyler Wright (Troy) led the Beavers through the air, completing 10-of-14 passes for 104 yards. Ryan Sabin (Canal Winchester) caught four of those passes for 70 yards.
Ben Kaufman (Ottawa-Glandorf) totaled 11 tackles, three of the solo variety, to lead the Beavers on defense. Josh Runda (Lima/Bath) also had a stellar defensive performance, racking up nine tackles, including four solo tackles and three tackles-for-loss. Nick Smith (Troy) and Mike Johnson (Browns Mills, NJ/Pemberton Township) chipped in with eight tackles each. Derek Woods (Springfield/South) had a late interception to go along with his four stops.
MSJ had a slight advantage in yards (306-293), including 253-189 on the ground, but the Lions completed just eight passes for 53 yards with two interceptions. Bluffton picked up one more first down (17-16) and the Beavers converted on both of their trips into the red zone.
The Beavers will be back at home next Saturday as they welcome the Manchester University Spartans to Salzman Stadium. That contest is scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m.