ST. JOHN — The St. John High School football team almost let a 22-point halftime lead slip away, but held on to beat Fairfield on Friday night.
The Tigers scored two late touchdowns to put the Eight-Man Division-I District 6 game away, 54-36.
St. John improves to 7-1 overall, 5-0 district, while Fairfield drops to 5-3, 3-2.
“I was very proud of our effort,” St. John head coach Nick Garcia said. “I told them, playing a team like this, we have to play 48 minutes of football, and we had a pretty good comfortable lead.
“There was a pretty big momentum swing, and our kids used a lot of heart to keep going and fighting.”
With the win, the Tigers locked down a postseason berth with one week remaining in the regular season. They travel to Kiowa County for its final district game on Thursday.
The Falcons struck first, scoring on a 33-yard pass from quarterback Ryan Ewy to Brennyn Pankratz.
St. John quarterback Spencer Nusser knotted the score at eight three minutes later on a 3-yard run.
Nusser sparked a five-touchdown run for St. John that saw the Tigers lead 38-8 with 1:17 remaining in the first half.
He scored on a 1-yard plunge in the second quarter.
Nusser also threw two touchdowns before halftime, a 36-yard pass to Dean Wade and a 15-yard score to Zuriel Reyes.
Nusser completed 15 of 22 passes for 165 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
“We were riding momentum,” Nusser said. “They weren’t stopping us, so we just kept going on the momentum. The team’s energy, the crowd’s energy, we just feed off that.
“This has been crazy. You just can’t ask for a better senior season.”
Schuyler Brown rushed for a 5-yard touchdown. He finished with 145 yards and two scores.
“Schuyler did a great job running tonight,” Garcia said. “I had a talk with him about just getting downhill. He clearly understood. He did a great job.
The Tigers’ 38-point run was aided by a recovered onside kick and three fumbles.
Fairifield’s Wayne Schoenecker rushed for a 15-yard touchdown before the end of the first half, starting a four-TD run for the Falcons.
Pankratz caught a 30-yard pass from Ewy for a touchdown.
Ewy rushed for a 3-yard score, and Schoenecker crashed into the end zone from five yards out.
“They were doing a great job running the ball,” Garcia said. “They were running it right down our nose. We were right there, we just missed a lot of tackles.”
With the gap closed to 38-36, the Tigers got a pair of touchdowns in the final eight minutes remaining.
Brown rushed for a 1-yard TD, and Reyes scored from six yards out.
HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL
Eight-Man Division-I District 6
At St. John
St. John 54, Fairfield 36
Fairfield 8 8 14 6 — 36
St. John 8 30 0 16 — 54
Fairfield — Brennyn Pankratz 33 pass from Ryan Ewy (Trace Basye pass from Ewy), 9:54.
St. John — Spencer Nusser 3 run (Nusser run), 6:01.
St. John — Nusser 1 run (Omar Ramirez pass from Nusser), 9:19.
St. John — Schuyler Brown 5 run (Dean Wade pass from Nusser), 5:52.
St. John — Wade 36 pass from Nusser (Ramirez pass from Nusser), 2:53.
St. John — Zuriel Reyes 15 pass from Nusser (run failed), 1:17.
Fairfield — Wayne Schoenecker 15 run (Ewy run), :03.
Fairfield — Pankratz 30 pass from Ewy (Ewy run), 10:02.
Fairfield — Ewy 3 run (run failed), 5:35.
Fairfield — Schoenecker 5 run (run failed), 11:56.
St. John — Brown 1 run (Brown run), 7:43.
St. John — Reyes 6 run (Wade pass from Nusser), 1:37.