Both Bill Conides and Seth Smith knew heading into Friday night’s Region 8-4A showdown that, with two of the state’s better offenses facing off, just getting a couple of stops defensively was going to decide the game.
As it turned out, they were correct.
No. 2 St. Stanislaus recovered three fumbles in the second half of Friday’s slug fest to defeat the visiting East Central Hornets 70-50.
With the exception of a goal-line stand on the game’s opening drive, and the final buzzer, the Rockachaws (7-1, 3-0) scored on every possession of the game. East Central (5-4, 2-1), meanwhile, lost three fumbles and punted once.
“We lost by three touchdowns. To me that was the difference,” Smith said. “I felt like we moved the ball all night. If you’re going to beat a team that’s that good on offense, you can’t turn the ball over and lose possessions.
“I thought our kids played their guts out, I really did. But when you fumble against great teams you put yourself in a big hole. That’s what we did.”
One of the main talking points heading into the game was when — not if — Myles Brennan would set the state’s career passing touchdown mark.
The LSU commit ended up setting the record on SSC’s second possession with a 4-yard touchdown to Darius Pittman to tie the eventual shootout 7-7.
Brennan went on to complete 41 of 45 passes for 543 yards and eight touchdowns.
With the performance, Brennan edged ahead of former Rockachaw Dylan Favre and now has 152 career touchdowns — and counting.
“It’s a great honor and a huge accomplishment, but like I’ve said before, it’s not just a record I set by myself,” Brennan said. “It’s obviously a team record and a team accomplishment. I couldn’t be more proud of us to accomplish this goal.
“What a night.”
The two teams combined for 120 points, but East Central actually opened the game with a big goal-line stand and marched 80 yards down the field to score on an 8-yard run from the nation’s leading rusher entering the night in Tony Brown.
With the exception of the final horn, SSC scored on every other possession.
The key for St. Stanislaus’ offense wasn’t necessarily the big play.
Yes, Brennan connected with Corbin Blanchard down the Hornets’ sideline for a 45-yard touchdown just before the half to go ahead 34-28.
And yes, Chase Rogers caught a 41-yard score, but most every other completion was underneath and the receivers did a good job to get yards after the catch.
The best example was Brendan Logan’s 55-yard touchdown. Logan caught a short pass along the left side, turned up field, picked up a few blocks and sliced through East Central’s secondary.
“We knew they didn’t want to give up the big pass, so we just had to take what they were giving us,” Conides said. “Ultimately by doing that we were eventually able to make the big play. We’re OK with that. We have to take what the defense gives us.”
Brennan ended up throwing touchdowns of 4 and 7 yards to Pittman; 10, 12, 41 and 8 to Rogers; 55 to Logan; and 45 to Blanchard. He also rushed for a 9-yard touchdown.
“He’s phenomenal,” Smith said. “He’s as good as advertised.”
Running back Andrew Trapani also scored on a 3-yard run to round out SSC’s touchdowns.
Pittman finished with 11 catches for 121 yards. Blanchard had six receptions for 118. Rogers had nine receptions for 129.
Clinging to a 34-28 advantage at half, Conides said he challenged his players to step up.
“We told our defense at halftime, all you need to do is get a stop. If you get a stop we win this ballgame,” he said. “And then they get a stop right off the bat.”
The Hornets fumbled on their first two possessions of the third quarter and were unable to rebound.
Leo Roos, Thomas Weber and Michael Pfarrer were credited with the Rockachaws’ three fumble recoveries in the game.
“We did what we had to do when we needed to do it,” said SSC middle linebacker Ricky Schaefer, who was around the ball carrier all night for the Rockachaws. “Overall we played good but we still have to get the edge on people, especially up front.”
Brown still finished the game with 236 yards on 30 carries with a pair of 2-yard scores late in addition to his 8-yard run. He also broke free for an 80-yard touchdown on a second-quarter kick return.
“He had a good night. He just has to quit fumbling. When you run there has to be a focus in your mind to protect the football,” Smith said of Brown, who fumbled once. “That’s probably my fault. He’s been so good I let him dance a little bit but sometimes that dancing can get you in trouble. But he’s a special kid and a special talent.”
Quarterback Rylee Brown completed 5 of 10 passes for 112 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown to Brad Cumbest. He also rushed for a 2-yard touchdown. Louis Morgan scored on a 16-yard touchdown. Jessie Bradley finished with 120 yards on 13 carries.
East Central will look to rebound next week with a home game against Bay High before concluding the regular season at home against Vancleave on Oct. 28.
St. Stanislaus visits to Moss Point before hosting Pass Christian.