A scare through the air
St. Joseph stays close with passing attack, but falls to Zeeland West in district semi
By Ben Sanders - Herald Palladium Sports Writer

ZEELAND — St. Joseph switched up its offense and nearly stunned Zeeland West in Saturday’s Division 3 district football semifinal. Zeeland West held on for a 40-26 victory using its traditional methods.

St. Joseph sophomore quarterback Jimmy Gillette threw for 328 yards and three touchdowns as the Bears moved to a spread passing attack, but the Dux used their T-formation offense to rush for 376 yards and maintain the lead throughout.

“I don’t think a lot of people thought we were going to come up here and give them much of a challenge,” St. Joseph coach Gandalf Church said. “Our kids came up here and we competed hard, played hard. I’m proud of that.”
Zeeland West (8-2) went for most of its fourth downs and converted 5 of 6 in the game, but the Dux did punt once early in the fourth quarter.

St. Joseph (5-5) took over on its own 28 and drove 72 yards in six plays. Gillette completed three straight passes totaling 65 yards, setting up a 1-yard sneak by Andy Blomgren that cut the score to 32-26 with 7:52 left to play.

“Completely unexpected what they came out with,” Zeeland West coach John Shillito said of St. Joseph’s passing attack. “My guess is that goes back to the summertime 7-on-7s, a lot of the stuff they did today. They did it with tempo, and with enough variety that it was awfully tough for us to defend. Coach Church and his staff deserve a lot of credit.”

The Dux took over at their own 20 and were called for holding on their first play, backing them up to the 11. But on first-and-19, Ross Bolman broke free for a 64yard run.

Bolman later finished the drive with a two-yard touchdown run. He rushed 23 times for 193 yards on the game.

“When we needed to move the ball and make first downs in the second half, we did it on his back,” Shillito said. “We have asked a lot of him all year, but obviously today we asked more, and he delivered.”

Gillette was intercepted by Mason Bakker on the Bears’ next possession, and the Dux were able to run out the clock from there.

St. Joseph started the game running the ball out of a full-house backfield with Blomgren at quarterback.

Neither team scored in the first quarter. The Dux nearly had a touchdown on a 51-yard pass from Carson Gulker to Austin Brower, but St. Joseph’s Devon Frenchko stripped the ball away at his own two-yard line.

Gillette entered early in the second quarter after Zeeland West scored the game’s first touchdown, and he found instant success. His first throw was a short swing pass that Derek Holowasko turned into a 65-yard touchdown down the left sideline.

“We kind of had two plans,” Church said. “We had the heavy set, and we did some good things with that, but it just became apparent that we were probably going to be chasing their scores all night. We kind of had to stick with (the spread). We executed it well, the kids did some good things.”

Zeeland West built a 24-7 lead on a pair of four-yard second quarter touchdown runs by Trevor Kilinski, the second coming with 1:54 left in the half. St. Joseph answered with an impressive drive, capped by a 9-yard touchdown toss from Gillette to Frenchko with just 8.7 seconds left in the half.

The Dux unsuccessfully attempted to let the second- half kickoff roll out of bounds and ended up pinned at their own 3-yard line, but drove 97 yards to extend their lead to its largest at 32-14, taking nearly seven minutes off the clock. Aside from a holding call, all 13 plays of the drive produced positive yardage.

“The difference is against other offenses we get some minus yardage plays,” Church said. “There’s hardly any. We played pretty good defense. The problem is, it’s never second-and-15. They’re good. They won a lot of games for a reason.”

Holowasko led St. Joseph in receiving with six catches for 123 yards, and ran five times for a team-high 36 yards. Nick Borre snagged four passes for 77 yards, and Frenchko had three grabs for 64 yards and a pair of scores.