PORTAGE — Trailing Portage Northern 27-21 with just over a minute to play in the game, the St. Joseph football team had a chance to tie or take the lead with a touchdown.
But Tyler Amos played the role of spoiler.
The Huskies star intercepted an Andy Blomgren pass with 25 seconds remaining to clinch a Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference West division title.
“It was a great high school football game between two good teams,” St. Joseph coach Andrew Pratley said. “We just made too many mistakes to win a game like that.”
Amos is better known for his exploits on the offensive side of the ball, but he’s a key cog for the Huskies in the backfield.
“We had (Amos) on man coverage, Anthony Tyus over the top, and Cory Cunningham on the same side of the field in man,” Portage Northern coach Pete Schermerhorn said. “You feel pretty good about situations when you know they’re forced into a situation where they have to throw. Those are the plays we expect to see out of Tyler. He’s been doing that for us all year.
“It was a playoff atmosphere, and to have the conference championship come down to the final play of the game was great. It was night for high school sports for our kids and fans.”
Portage Northern (5-0 SMAC West, 8-1) struck first with an Amos 10-yard touchdown run to put the Huskies up 7-0 in the second quarter. St. Joseph (4-1 SMAC West) responded immediately when Jeremiah Sterling capped a seven-play, 80-yard drive with a 13-yard touchdown run to tie the game.
The Huskies took the lead back when quarterback Nick Henegar hit receiver Cory Cunningham in stride for a 55-yard touchdown pass to make it 13-7 with four minutes remaining in the half. But the Bears responded again with a 78-yard touchdown pass from Blomgren to Griffin Shinrock to take a 14-13 lead into halftime.
The Huskies seized the momentum to start the half. A 20-yard touchdown pass from Henegar to Cunningham and a 48-yard touchdown run from Anthony Tyus gave Portage Northern a 27-14 lead midway through the third quarter.
St. Joseph answered back when a 61-yard Drake Collins run set up a nine-yard Sterling touchdown run to cut Portage Northern’s lead to 27-21 entering the fourth quarter.
“We played a good team game,” Pratley said. “We just had a few too many turnovers. They’re 8-1 for a reason. They’re a great football team.”
Portage Northern had a chance to take control of the game in the fourth quarter when Henegar hit Kareem Williams with a 41-yard pass to set up first and goal. But the St. Joseph defense held the Huskies to a three-and-out and the ensuing 27-yard field goal attempt was no good, giving the Bears their last chance to win late before the interception.
The two teams went into Friday’s game hoping to limit each other’s rushing attacks. Portage Northern averaged nearly 400 yards rushing entering Friday’s matchup and finished with 183.
“Their defensive line is big and physical, as are their linebackers,” Schermerhorn said. “We’re a running football team, so we knew it would be a challenge to run and it was. We’ve got to shore things up. We did a pretty good job of handling their veer offense. They were able to break a big power play on us and a pass play but we held our own.”
Sterling led the Bears with 26 carries for 122 yards and two touchdowns and Drake Collins had 87 yards on eight carries and one touchdown. Konner LaVanway had 17 tackles to lead the defense.
St. Joseph ends the season on a three-game losing streak, each loss coming from a playoff qualifier. But the Bears live to play another week as they await the name of their postseason opponent.
“We feel pretty confident,” Pratley said. “We have a great football team so we’ll see what happens next week.”
Portage Northern 27, St. Joseph 21
PN 0 13 14 0 — 27
SJ 0 14 7 0 — 21
PN — Tyler Amos 10 run (Cam Adams kick), 10:34.
SJ — Jeremiah Sterling 13 run (Brent Huff kick), 8:58.
PN — Cory Cunningham 55 pass from Nick Henegar (kick failed), 4:00.
SJ — Griffin Shinrock 78 pass from Andy Blomgren (Huff kick), 3:25.
PN — Cunningham 20 pass from Henegar (Adams kick), 3:44.
PN — Anthony Tyus 48 run (Adams kick), 1:46.
SJ — Sterling 9 run (Huff kick), 0:11.
First downs 27 21
Total yards 283 286
Rushes-yards 47-144 45-180
Passing yards 139 106
Comp-att-int 7-12-2 6-12-1
Penalties 7-57 5-35
Turnovers 2 3
Rushing — St. Joseph: Sterling 26-122, Collins 8-87. Portage Northern: Tyus 20-80, Amos 19-71.
Passing — St. Joseph: Blomgren 6-11-106-1. Portage Northern: Henegar 7-12-139-2.
Receiving — St. Joseph: Shinrock 4-98, Luke Hedstrom 1-17. Portage Northern: Cunningham 6-99, Kareem Williams 1-40.
Tackles — Konner LaVanway 17, Joseph Brown 9, Brent Huff 7. Portage Northern: Tyus 7, Greg Lapetina 6.
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