LIMA — Every time Lima Senior tried to jump on the gas, only black smoke came belching out of the tail pipe.
The Spartans lost the ball on three straight kickoff returns in the fourth quarter and fell to Toledo St. John’s 47-22 Friday at Spartan Stadium.
St. John’s is 5-4, 3-3 in the Three Rivers Athletic Conference. Lima Senior is 4-5, 2-4 in the TRAC.
“We played with passion in the first half, but we didn’t execute, offensively,’’ Lima Senior coach Andre Griffin said. “The defense came out, and it was (down) 2-0 (after one quarter on a safety). The second half we didn’t have the ball. And they did a great job of putting the wildcat in.’’
St. John’s ended up rushing for 279 yards behind Minnesota-bound lineman Austin Beier (6-4, 280 pounds).
Dallas Gant ran the wildcat for 121 yards on 10 carries. He had wildcat TD runs of 17, 25 and 5 yards.
Chris Valentine ran for 92 yards on 15 carries. He had TDs of 20 and 20 yards.
“The line did well, and there were solid holes,” Valentine said. “And we’ve used that wildcat this year and have been quite successful with it.’’
St. John’s led 23-7 at the half, and the Spartans had only minus-7 yards on the ground by halftime and had lost two fumbles.
The Spartans rallied in the third quarter when Xavier Nichols caught a 69-yard TD pass from Adrine Mitchell. That brought the Spartans within 30-22 with 24 seconds left in the third.
Enter the St. John’s wildcat formation with running back Gant taking the snap. Gant ran for a 25-yard TD out of the wildcat to make it 37-22 with 8:51 to go.
On the next kickoff, a Lima Senior player backed away from the pooch kick, and St. John’s recovered at the Lima 26.
“The kickoff, we were right there. We just have to communicate and catch the ball,” Griffin said. “We panicked in that situation.’’
Five plays later, Gant ran the wildcat on a keeper for a 5-yard TD. That pushed the St. John’s lead to 44-32.
Lima Senior lost the next kickoff on a fumble, and St. John’s converted a 29-yard field goal to make it 47-22.
Lima Senior set a school record with 775 total yards in a win over Findlay last week. Friday, the Spartans had just 267 total yards with only 17 on the ground.
In the air, Mitchell was 16 of 25 for 250 yards and three TDs. Keaton Upshaw, who committed to play college football at Kentucky, had eight catches for 119 yards and one TD.
Valentine’s first 20-yard TD pushed the St. John’s lead to 16-0 with 6:08 left in the second quarter.
Lima Senior came right back with a three-play, 66-yard drive. Upshaw caught a pass for 59 to get the ball to the St. John’s 7.
Two plays later, Upshaw grabbed a 7-yard TD swing pass from Mitchell to bring the Spartans within 16-7 with 5:28 left in the half.
But it was back to Valentine, who got loose off right guard for another 20-yard TD.
That gave the Titans the 23-7 lead with 1:33 left before the half.
The Lima News sports department can be reached at 567-242-0451.