Eureka College junior quarterback Blake Robles (East Lake, Fla./East Lake H.S./Ottawa) completed passes to 10 different receivers and set or matched career-highs with 25 completions, 345 yards and four touchdowns, but Upper Midwest Athletic Conference co-leader St. Scholastica scored on four of its first five possessions to build an early lead and later held off a second-half rally from the hosts in a 38-25 league victory over the Red Devils, Saturday afternoon at Pete FioRito Stadium at McKinzie Field.
The Saints put the Red Devils in a hole early, grabbing a 24-0 advantage before the EC offense could get into a rhythm.
An 11-yard touchdown rush from Jake Jensen capped the first CSS possession and got the visitors on the board with a 7-0 lead.
The Saints got the ball back after a Eureka three-and-out and stretched their lead to 14-0 when quarterback Tyler Harper connected with Spencer Sprecht with a 4-yard touchdown pass with 3:29 left in the first.
The Saints racked up 144 yards of offense in the first quarter and led 14-0 at the end of the frame.
The third CSS series of the afternoon stalled in the red zone, but Mike Theismann gave the Saints a three-possession cushion when he made a 33-yard field goal on the fourth play of the second quarter for a 17-0 lead.
Three possessions later, St. Scholastica secured its third touchdown of the half when Harper’s lateral found Josh Simmons, who uncorked a 47-yard touchdown throw to Cory Gebhard for a 24-0 lead with 4:58 remaining before intermission.
The Eureka offense came to life late in the half when sophomore wide receiver Matt Mogged (Piper City/Tri-Point H.S.) hauled in his team-leading fifth receiving touchdown of the season, a 67-yard catch-and-run from Robles with 4:12 left in the quarter.
The strike trimmed St. Scholastica’s lead to 24-7. The Red Devils pushed into CSS territory twice in the final three minutes of the half, but the Saints ultimately carried the 17-point lead into halftime.
Eureka forced a three-and-out from the Saints to begin the second half and looked poised to trim its deficit on the ensuing series, but CSS defensive back Mike LaValley collected Robles’ deflected pass in the end zone for an interception to thwart Eureka’s drive. Nine plays later on 3rd-and-13, Harper connected with Jensen on a 47-yard touchdown pass to stretch the visitors’ lead back to three full possessions, 31-7.
Facing the big hill to climb, the Red Devils put up 173 yards in the fourth quarter as part of their rally. Robles threw touchdown passes to senior receiver Jake Bane (Dana/Fieldcrest H.S./Monmouth) on the Red Devils’ first two series of the fourth quarter, slashing the deficit to 31-19 with 9:33 left in the game.
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The Saints answered with a strong kickoff return and a quick 2-play scoring drive that was highlighted by Jensen’s 53-yard touchdown rush for a 38-19 cushion.
Robles threw his fourth touchdown of the afternoon on the next possession, a 6-yard strike to senior wideout Nate Louis (Putnam/Henry-Senachwine H.S.) for the hosts to trail 38-25 with 3:47 to play, but the Saints answered with an 8-play series that wasted the rest of the clock.
Robles finished the day 25-for-47 for a career-high 345 yards and four touchdowns.
Bane made a season-high six catches for 70 yards and two scores, while freshman receiver Dorell Baugh (Nashville, Tenn./Hillsboro H.S.) made four receptions for 29 yards.
Senior running back Corey Dawson (Farmington/Farmington H.S.) rushed 14 times for 57 yards.
Senior linebacker Drew Duffy (Flanagan/Flanagan-Cornell H.S.) made a team-high nine tackles, four of which were unassisted. Seniors Stew McGinnis (East Peoria/East Peoria H.S./Millikin) and Ben Mills (Manito/Pekin H.S.) also compiled four solo tackles apiece. Mills and senior linebacker Jacob Carls (El Paso/El Paso-Gridley H.S.) each had 1.5 of Eureka’s seven tackles for loss for the afternoon.
Jensen did most of the damage for CSS, carrying 28 times for 128 yards and two scores. He added a third touchdown through the air.
Harper finished the afternoon 16-for-28 for 231 yards and a pair of touchdowns. The Saints did not commit a turnover for the day.
Eureka will try to return to the win column next Saturday in its final road game of the 2013 season at new UMAC member Iowa Wesleyan in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.
The contest marks the Red Devils’ first matchup with the Tigers since 1990.
The all-time series that dates back to 1947 is tied, 10-10-1.
NOTES: Saturday’s decision marked St. Scholastica’s fourth straight win over the Red Devils. CSS leads the all-time series, 4-1 ... The Saints outgained Eureka, 439-385, and held a slim advantage in time of possession, 30:12 to 29:48 ... Junior wide receiver Jake Rutherford (McLean/Olympia H.S.) made a 41-yard catch in the fourth quarter, his longest career reception ... A 45-yard kickoff return in the first quarter by freshman Rick Martinez (Yorba Linda, Calif./JSerra Catholic H.S.) was the Red Devils’ longest return of the season. Martinez finished with 103 return yards for the day ... The Red Devils compiled a season-high 73 yards in penalties ... The Eureka defense did not force a turnover or record a sack for the first time this season.