BANGOR – Jake Steele played the role of a shadow Saturday night, but the Winthrop High School sophomore certainly didn’t play in the shadows.
Steele rushed for 99 yards on 21 carries, had two pass interceptions, a fumble recovery and helped contain John Bapst of Bangor star tailback Nick Smith as the Ramblers played the role of Homecoming spoilers with a 12-0 Class C football victory over the Crusaders at Cameron Stadium.
Smith entered the game having rushed for more than 180 yards in each of his last two outings, but was held to 65 yards on 27 carries as Steele moved from the outside linebacker spot to free safety to focus on the John Bapst junior.
“[Smith’s] a great runner, he’s fast and tough and makes people miss,” said Steele. “[Winthrop] Coach [Joel Stoneton] said we ran a lot alike, so he wanted me to make sure I knew where he was and make sure he didn’t break any long runs because that would give them a lot of momentum.”
John Bapst, now 4-2 after having its three-game win streak halted, didn’t have any other options on this night. The Crusaders managed just 98 total yards – including a minus-3 yards in the first half – and committed five turnovers.
“We’ve been saying all year we have a good defense, and we lean on it a lot,” said Stoneton, who celebrated his own Homecoming of sorts, given that he spent his first two years of high school at John Bapst before graduating from Winthrop, and that his father remains on John Bapst’s board of trustees.
“We get frustrated not being to put some points up sometimes, but we know our defense isn’t going to bend.”
Winthrop (3-3) was most dominant in the first half, holding Bapst to minus-3 total yards. Of the Crusaders’ 20 rushing plays in the first two periods, nine went for negative yardage.
The Ramblers complemented that defense with decent offensive balance. Led by Steele, Winthrop rushed for 156 yards on 37 carries, while senior quarterback Kyle Plossay completed seven passes for 81 yards and second-quarter touchdowns to Kevin Hart and Andrew Smithgall.
John Bapst threatened on its initial possession, with a 19-yard punt return by Kyle Gallant giving the Crusaders possession at the Winthrop 42. Smith gained 14 yards on the first play, with a late-hit penalty giving Bapst first down at the 14.
But a mishandled handoff cost the Crusaders 7 yards on first down, and on the next play a pass over the middle by Charlie Merritt was intercepted by Steele at the 6.
A 56-yard punt by Hart that stopped at the John Bapst 1 later in the period gave Winthrop the field-position advantage, and the Ramblers later got the ball first-and-goal on the 4 after an errant Crusaders’ lateral was recovered by Joe Morey.
But the John Bapst defense stiffened, as Chase Huckestein tackled Steele for an 8-yard loss and Gallant stopped Josh Dubois well short of the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 12.
A bad punt snap on Bapst’s next possession gave Winthrop the ball at the Crusaders’ 28. This time the Ramblers capitalized.
Steele ran 12 yards for a first down, and Plossay then found Hart over the middle with a 13-yard TD pass to give Winthrop a 6-0 lead with 5:58 left in the first half.
John Bapst’s Jim Ouellette blocked the extra-point kick.
Winthrop struck quickly for its second touchdown after getting the ball back at the Bapst 48 following a punt with 54.7 seconds left in the half.
Plossay scrambled on first down and threw a short pass to Dubois, who turned the catch into a 34-yard gain to the Bapst 14. On the next play, Smithgall made a fingertip catch of a Plossay pass in the front left corner of the end zone to extend the Winthrop lead to 12-0 with 37.4 seconds left in the half.
RAMBLERS 12, CRUSADERS 0
Winthrop (3-3) 0 12 0 0 – 12
John Bapst (4-2) 0 0 0 0 – 0
W – Hart 13 pass from Plossay (kick blocked)
W – Smithgall 14 pass from Plossay (rush failed)
Winthrop John Bapst
First downs 11 8
Rushing att.-yards 37-156 44-62
Passing comp.-att. 7-18 4-18
Passing yards 81 36
Total yards 237 98
Punts-avg. 6-37.3 4-29.5
Fumbles-lost 1-1 5-3
Intercepted by 2 0
Penalties-yards 10-56 3-15
Winthrop: Steele 21-99, Dubois 6-38, Morey 8-27, Plossay 2-(minus-8); John Bapst: N. Smith 27-65, Huckestein 1-5, Chamberlain 3-4, Gallant 4-(minus-1), Merritt 9-(minus-11)
Winthrop: Plossay 7-18-0-81; John Bapst: Merritt 4-17-2-36, N. Smith 0-1-0-0
Winthrop: Dubois 4-51, Smithgall 1-14, Hart 1-13, Steele 1-3; John Bapst: N. Smith 1-19, Ortiz 1-11, Gallant 1-6, S. Kelly 1-0