ST. PAULS — The St. Pauls football team looked to be the better one on the field Friday for the first 30 minutes of its game against Gray’s Creek on Friday night, but an affliction of cramping derailed the teams upset hopes and allowed Gray’s Creek to come back and beat them 42-28 in the season opener for both teams.
“We used about everybody tonight,” said St. Pauls coach Trey Sasser. “We had 34 that dressed and we used about all of them tonight.”
The Bulldogs wracked up 250 yards of offense in the first half, along with a 14-7 lead before recovering an onside kick and driving for their third score to open the second half of play when Cody McKenna ran it in from six yards out. That gave St. Pauls a 20-7 lead with nine minutes to go in the third quarter.
Sasser said he was happy with McKenna’s play.
“I was overall please with what he did,” Sasser said. “It’s just a product of who was on the field really.”
A rash of cramping hit the Bulldogs after that, as the team had three running backs leave the game at various points and McKenna had to take a seat for a series due to the problem.
“Right now I guess we just need to get in better shape, and that’s my fault,” Sasser said. “We had different players going out at key times, and we were playing third-string lineman at one point, and it affected everybody.”
The Bears jumped on the opportunity and scored a pair of touchdowns on their next three drives to take a 28-20 lead into the fourth quarter of play.
A pair of early touchdowns in the fourth quarter built the Bears lead to 42-20 before the Bulldogs made a final charge in the waning minutes of the quarter. Sasser said the defense can’t have lapses like that if they expect to win.
“They were up at halftime, then I don’t know if we went into coast mode, and people on that side of the ball started coming out (with cramps) and we had people who hadn’t played rolling in,” he said.
Junior wide receiver Tim Billinger said it could have been a completely different result were it not for the cramps.
“When we came out here in the second half, and seeing everybody going down with cramps, I believe that’s what cause us the game,” he said.
McKenna and Billinger would hook up for a third time in the game on a 65 yard pass and catch for a touchdown to narrow it to 42-28.
A second drive would stall outside the redzone with four minutes on the clock after Gray’s Creek recovered a fumbled snap.
The Bears were led by the efforts of fullback Calvin Boyd, as he ran for three touchdowns in the game to go along with 189 yards on the ground. Boyd was paced by fellow running back T.J. McMillian who added a pair of touchdowns in the game as well as 110 yards of his own. Three of the touchdowns for Gray’s Creek were from 40 or more yards.
The Bears stuck to their traditional wing-T, only attempting six passes on the night, with only one completion.
St. Pauls went with a more balance offense on the night, with a 50-50 balance of running and passing plays on the night.
Cody McKenna finished the first half of the game going 11 for 20 with 144 yards and two touchdown completions to Tim Billinger. The pair would hook up for a third touchdown in the fourth quarter as well as a two point conversion. McKenna finished the game with 254 yards through the air.
“Me and Cody have been playing together since middle school, so we already have a connection,” Billinger said. “I’m pretty sure as the season goes on we are going to build on that connection.”
McKenna also led the Bulldogs in rushing with 137 yards on the ground and a rushing touchdown.
Gray’s Creek 42, St. Pauls 28
Gray’s Creek 7 0 21 14 — 42
St. Pauls 7 7 6 8 — 28
STP — McKenna to Billinger for 5 yd touchdown pass (PAT good)
GC — Boyd 65 yd touchdown run (PAT good)
STP — McKenna to Billenger for 15 yd touchdown pass (PAT good)
STP — McKenna 6 yd touchdown run (failed 2-pt conversion)
GC — Boyd 55 yd touchdown run (PAT good)
GC — TJ McMillian 8 yd touchdown run (PAT good)
GC —Boyd 9 yd touchdown run (PAT good)
GC — TJ McMillian 45 yd touchdown run (PAT good)
GC — Cooper-Murray 39 yd touchdown run (PAT good)
STP — McKenna to Billinger 65 yd touchdown pass (2-pt conversion good McKenna to Billinger)
Passing: STP: Cody McKenna 14-33-2-254; GC: Trent Agee 1-6-1-16
Rushing: STP: Cody McKenna 15-137, Trey Johnson 18-50, Christian Edwards 3-10, Trey Johnson 1-9; GC — Calvin Boyd 16-189, TJ McMillian 8-110
Receiving: STP: Tim Billinger 7-155, Sayvon Sampson 4-64, Charles Spears 2-8; GC: TJ McMillian 1-16