Climax-Scotts defeated Battle Creek St. Philip 42-38 Saturday in their first gridiron meeting since 2011. The Panther road win was their sixth victory of the season, guaranteeing a playoff berth for the 17th consecutive season. To get the win, C-S had to fend off a late rally in a wild second half.
Looking at the final numbers, you would never guess that Saturday’s game was tied at 6-6 entering halftime. Or that the Panthers held a 22-point lead to enter the fourth quarter. It came down to a fourth and two with 26 seconds to go for Climax-Scotts, needing a first down to run out the rest of the clock. Sophomore quarterback Jackson Lawrence used the hard snap count and drew the Fighting Tigers offside to secure a first down and victory.
Two first half turnovers slowed the Panther offense. After two punts and a turnover-on-downs, St. Philip broke through for the game’s first touchdown with 1:45 remaining in the second quarter. Quarterback Conor Gausselin connected with Elijah Reed on a 23-yard touchdown pass for a 6-0 score after a missed extra point.
A lengthy Lawrence kick return put Climax-Scotts only 29 yards from the end zone on the ensuing drive, setting up a two-yard Connor Gibson touchdown run with 33 seconds to spare. The two-point conversion try was denied for a 6-6 tie ball game at the intermission.
The Panthers fumbled away their opening drive, but snagged their first takeaway with a Johnny Hunter interception soon after. Ernesto Escobedo gave C-S their first lead via a 16-yard rushing score. The Tigers fumbled on the kick return and soon after, Gibson punched in a five-yard touchdown for a 20-6 Climax-Scotts lead.
The Panther defense forced a turnover-on-downs, followed by a 53-yard Escobedo TD run and a 28-6 advantage to close the third quarter. Another Tiger turnover-on-downs to open the fourth quarter made it appear that Climax-Scotts was on its way to a smooth victory.
However, things shifted dramatically when the Panthers fumbled again, their fourth giveaway of the game. Gausselin found Charlie Harrington on a seven-yard passing touchdown with 9:28 left, then ran in the two-pointer for a 28-14 score. Within 25 seconds, the Tigers would recover an onside kick, then complete a 48-yard TD pass to Hunter Finnila. A two-point pass to Reed put St. Philip within six at 28-22.
Climax-Scotts quickly answered with a 40-yard Gibson run and Escobedo two-point conversion for a 36-22 score with 7:24 left. At the 6:09 mark, the Fighting Tigers were again within six points via a four-yard Gausselin rushing TD and a two-point run. Again, the Panthers pulled back away by two scores as Lawrence posted a 23-yard rushing TD with 2:34 remaining, putting the tally at 42-30 after a failed conversion.
St. Philip scored their fourth touchdown of the fourth quarter on a six-yard Gausselin run. A two-point toss to Finnila made it a four-point game at 42-38 with 1:24 to go. The Panthers recovered the onside kick, but still needed a first down to bleed the clock thanks to two remaining Tiger timeouts.
After three rushes, Climax-Scotts faced a fourth-and-two at the Panther 43 with 26 seconds left. Following a C-S timeout, Lawrence used the hard count to draw encroachment, earning a first down and a playoff spot with the win.
Gibson unofficially racked up 220 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries. Escobedo tallied 157 on 17 attempts with two scores and Lawrence ran for 88 on 11 tries. Gausselin finished with 295 passing yards and three touchdowns, plus two scores and 93 yards on the ground. Finnila made seven catches for 174 yards.
The loss ends St. Philip’s playoff hopes, dropping them to 2-5. They host Tekonsha (3-4) in week eight next Saturday, then close at Tri-Unity Christian in week nine.
Climax-Scotts improves to 6-1 with the victory and hosts Burr Oak (5-2) next Friday. The Panthers stay at home in week nine against Martin (7-0).
SP- 23 yard pass Elijah Reed from Conor Gausselin, PAT miss (1:45)
CS- 2 yard run Connor Gibson, 2PT fail (0:33)
CS- 16 yard run Ernesto Escobedo, 2PT run Gibson (6:24)
CS- 5 yard run Connor Gibson, 2PT fail (4:40)
CS- 53 yard run Ernesto Escobedo, 2PT run Jackson Lawrence (0:45)
SP- 7 yard pass Charlie Harrington from Conor Gausselin, 2PT run Gausselin (9:28)
SP- 48 yard pass Hunter Finnila from Conor Gausselin, 2PT pass to Reed (9:03)
CS- 40 yard run Connor Gibson, 2PT run E. Escobedo (7:24)
SP- 4 yard run Conor Gausselin, 2PT run Gausselin (6:09)
CS- 23 yard run Jackson Lawrence, 2PT fail (2:34)
SP- 6 yard run Conor Gausselin, 2PT pass to Finnila (1:24)
Total Yards: Climax-Scotts 490, St. Philip 425
Turnovers: Climax-Scotts 4, St. Philip 2
Climax-Scotts Rushing: Connor Gibson 220; 3 TD, Ernesto Escobedo 157, 2 TD; Jackson Lawrence 88, 1 TD; Johnny Hunter 13, Guillermo Escobedo 12
St. Philip Rushing: Conor Gausselin 93, 2 TD; Charlie Harrington 27, Nurllah Ozturk 10, Ben Rutherford 0
Climax-Scotts Passing: Jackson Lawrence 0-2, 1 INT
St. Philip Passing: Conor Gausselin 20-34, 295 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT
St. Philip Receiving: Hunter Finnila 7-174, 1 TD; Charlie Harrington 8-65, 1 TD; Elijah Reed 2-36, 1 TD; Matt Andren 3-20
Climax-Scotts Defense: Johnny Hunter INT, Nathan Peck FR
St. Philip Defense: Conor Gausselin 2 FR, Charlie Harrington INT
Records: Climax-Scotts 6-1 (3-1 SCAA-A); St. Philip 2-5 (0-4 SCAA-A)