The final score suggests it was a tighter tussle than what actually took place Friday night in Kalamazoo. But after the Sturgis football team staffed the fourth quarter with several reserves, pulled its starting quarterback and eased up on the offensive throttle, the end result was still exactly what the Trojans needed.
With senior QB Chance Stewart throwing for 331 yards and five touchdowns in the first three frames, Sturgis left Loy Norrix with a 41-27 victory to set up a regular season finale against Lakeview that will either open the postseason door to the Trojans (5-3) or leave the program a win shy.
“We talked earlier this year about how we both could come in (to the final game) undefeated for a conference championship,” said Sturgis head coach Jimmy Lamb, whose team improved to 4-2 in the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference East Division. “Okay, that’s not going to happen. But now we’re coming in and we’re facing a team that in two of the last three years has knocked us out of [playoff contention]. Now we’ve got a shot to see what we’re made of.”
For the second week in a row, Sturgis attacked via aerial assault. With a future Division 1 quarterback at the helm, the team hitched its wagon to Western Michigan University commit Stewart, which had the green light to let it rip.
Scoring on its first two possessions on touchdown strikes from Stewart to Liam Adams (52 yards) and Jack Scheske (five yards), Sturgis cashed in on a blocked and recovered punt with a 16-yard TD hookup between Stewart and Adams for a 21-0 advantage in the first quarter.
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Loy Norrix (0-8) signal caller Traver Parlato aired out a 66-yard touchdown to Malyk Thomas to prevent things from getting out of hand in a hurry, but it was only a temporary patch. Stewart was just getting started for the Trojans.
Though the second quarter wasn’t nearly as fruitful as the first for Sturgis, Stewart scoped out Scheske from 15 yards out to pump the cushion back up to 27-7, which stood until the third quarter.
Click here for our video interview with Jimmy Lamb.
Tristen Stewart intercepted a Parlato pass to give the Trojans the ball at their own 47-yard line. Big brother took control after that, which included an across-the-body heave 42 yards downfield into the hands of junior receiver Jack Caywood. Senior running back Matt Phillips finished the drive with a two-yard run for a 34-7 lead.
Matt Summey’s blocked Loy Norrix punt led to a 26-yard connection between Stewart and Kalvyn Bowdish and a 41-7 advantage with just over two minutes to play in the third stanza.
The Knights desperately scrambled for consolation points at the end, putting up a 20 spot in the fourth quarter.
“We moved the ball, took care of opportunities, drove the ball down the field and scored. … We came out in the third quarter and finished [Loy Norrix off].”
Phillips finished the night with 48 yards on 13 carries and Scheske turned in 106 receiving yards on eight catches. Bowdish added 85 yards on 10 snags, Adams posted 81 yards on three receptions and Caywood ended the evening with 65 yards on two catches.
Junior Jacob Haas, who missed six games with a concussion, returned to lead the team with 5.5 tackles. Scheske produced four stops and Adams and Bowdish finished with three apiece. Max Maher contributed with 1.5 tackles and an interception for the Trojans.
“Tonight was a huge win,” Stewart said. “It was nice finally in the fourth quarter to kind of just relax and not have to worry about a last drive to win the game. Last week, this week and next week have all been playoff games for us. It’s win or we’re in trouble. You can’t ask for a better way to end it as a senior. It’s going to be senior night; you need a win; it’s a rivalry — it’s a pitch perfect night right there.”