St. Anne’s-Belfield football switched to 8-man full-time a year ago, but as we learned last year, their identity didn’t change that much at all. If you’re looking to stop the Saints, you better be ready to stop off tackle out of the I-formation with a fullback coming hard into the hole. If you aren’t, the play is going to look like a cheat code in a video game.
Friday it looked like a cheat code.
The Saints ran their signature off tackle play repeatedly and the offensive line — in combination with fullback Gabe Decker — sprung Amani Woods for 233 yards rushing and four touchdowns in a 57-22 win over Faith Christian.
“Chase and Luke, they were just pushing people around,” Woods said. “We ran it a lot to the right and they were pushing the defensive linemen around.”
The Saints had to rebuild the line a bit after the graduation of Will Edelson, but the addition of John Mark Wenger to a group that already included 270-pound Luke Antesberger, 225-pound Chase Holden and big tight end Elijah Johnson gives the Saints reason to think they’ll be moving the ball effectively all season long.
“Chase and Luke have been playing for us for a little while and adding John Mark to that ground, we’re big and you throw Elijah in that mix,” said STAB coach John Blake. “We’re big up front and we can push — there were some big holes.”
Woods came through the line untouched repeatedly and found tons of different angles and creases to run through out of the same base play, making defending STAB particularly tough for Faith Christian, the reigning 8-man state champions in North Carolina.
“Amani did a great job of spotting holes,” Blake said. “On the first drive we ran the same play four times and Amani didn’t go to the same place four times. He’s totally more patient, his vision has been great. As long as he can stay healthy good things are going to happen for us.”
The Saints were up 20-8 at the end of the first quarter and expanded that lead to 36-14 by halftime. Faith Christian held on to the ball early in the third quarter and managed to close the gap briefly, but then the dam broke as Woods streaked in for a couple of touchdowns in quick succession and Nick Musi had a fumble recovery for a score.
The defense was locked in from the jump too. In most 8-man games you’re going to give up some points, but STAB made Faith Christian work for most every point they got and tackled more soundly than they did a year ago.
“For us to play against two backs (Shaikey Hardy and Hobart Brantley) like that, we made some great tackles,” Blake said. “The long runs they had were just mistakes. I’m totally impressed with the way we tackled, it was the best we’ve had in a long time.”
Nic Reese tacked on another 105 yards and a touchdown on the ground in the first half from the Saints’ quarterback spot. Nolan Bruton also proved effective as a signal-caller with Reese occasionally flexed out as a receiver as the Saints searched for ways to get the ball in the hands of the converted basketball player.
Johnson also caught a touchdown from the tight end spot.
STAB will look to move to 2-0 on the year against Brunswick Academy next week.