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Lutheran North defense forces four turnovers on way to win over St. Mary's

Lutheran North defense forces four turnovers on way to win over St. Mary's

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Lutheran North seniors Terrance Fuller and Travion Ford have made a habit of meeting in opponent’s backfields this season. The duo combined for six sacks and 10 tackles for loss over the first two games.

But despite their domination, the Crusaders’ defense had forced only one turnover.

That all changed on Friday.

Lutheran North forced four takeaways, including a sack-fumble touchdown produced by Fuller and Ford and a scoop-and-score by Makai Parton as the Crusaders rolled to a 33-20 win over St. Mary's in a game at LaMothe Field.

North survived an explosive third quarter by St. Mary’s standout receiver Kevin Coleman to claim the win.

“Our defense did a great job of forcing some turnovers. They made some big plays and made some big stops,” Lutheran North coach Carl Reed said.

The thievery began quickly as the Crusaders stripped the ball from St. Mary’s junior running back De’Shawn Fuller on the Dragons' first play from scrimmage and junior Jamez Lee recovered inside St. Mary’s territory. 

Immediately, the Crusaders went for the big play as junior quarterback Brian Brown found junior Kevon Jacobs on a 21-yard pass. Lutheran North moved the ball inside the St. Mary’s 5-yard line, but a sack and a penalty forced a 33-yard field goal by senior Jacob Fuller to open the scoring.

The Lutheran North rushing attack had averaged 281 yards per game, but the St. Mary’s defense, led by senior Kobe McClendon and sophomore Kaliel Boyd, were able to penetrate the Crusaders’ backfield and reroute their talented ball carriers before they could get started.

But early in the second quarter, Lutheran North junior Jaylin Carson, who has recovered from shoulder and ankle injuries that have derailed his previous two seasons, broke loose on a 48-yard quick-hitting burst up the middle to place the ball at the 1-yard line, setting up his own touchdown run and a 9-0 lead.

“I just followed my blocks, depended on my teammates to give me a lane to run in and I took off,” said Carson, who ran 12 times for 101 yards. 

St. Mary’s, which advanced to a Class 4 state semifinal round last season, began to move the ball on short quick passes, but Lutheran North senior linebacker Chris Childs stepped in front of a Caron Spann pass for the second big turnover by the defense.

But the biggest turnover of the first half came when Spann, deep in his own territory, was mauled by the pass rush of Fuller and lost the ball. Ford picked it off the grass and raced 15 yards to give the Crusaders a 15-0 lead at intermission.

“(St. Mary’s) offensive line is probably the best we’ve faced this year, but when we rush the quarterback and we all run to the ball, we give our team a chance to make big plays,” Ford said.

St. Mary’s emerged from the locker room determined to get Coleman, an NCAA Division-I recruit, involved in the offense. He had caught just one pass for nine yards in the first half. He caught three passes on the Dragons’ opening second-half drive including a slant pass that he took 40 yards to the end zone.

After a blocked punt by St. Mary’s sophomore Jamal Roberts, Coleman stepped in at quarterback and raced 35 yards for a touchdown to trim the deficit to 15-13. In all, Coleman caught seven passes for 124 yards, doing most of his damage in the second half.

“He’s a playmaker and we wanted to get the ball in his hands,” St. Mary’s coach Ken Turner said. “We had worked (Coleman) at quarterback all week and we were able to use him (at QB) in the second half and it opened some things up for us.”

But the surge of St. Mary’s momentum was short-lived.

On the Crusaders’ next possession, Brown fired a perfectly placed slant pass to Toriano Pride, who outraced the secondary for a 60-yard touchdown.

“The middle of the field was open, and the O-line gave me time I needed,” said Brown, who threw for 81 yards and rushed for 57 yards.

One minute later, the defense forced its fourth turnover, when Parton scooped up a fumbled handoff and raced 50 yards to open a 30-13 lead.

“Our guys didn’t flinch, the momentum doesn’t worry us, our guys have been in a lot of big games before, so they were prepared for that situation and kept fighting and kept working,” Reed said.

Box: Lutheran North 33, St. Mary's 20
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