St. Joe Lafayette tops Savannah in shootout
By Cody Thorn The St. Joseph News-Press
Perhaps this Savannah versus Lafayette rivalry is picking up some steam.
The Fighting Irish needed a touchdown run from Drew Cortez in the final minute to hold on for a 48-35 victory at Savannah High School.
The win is the second straight in the series for Lafayette, who also dispatched Savannah during districts last year. Prior to that, the Savages dominated the series winning the previous six years.
Lafayette built a big lead, saw it almost slip away and then needed a late score to wrap up a second straight Midland Empire Conference win in a competitive contest. That carried over into the postgame handshakes as Savannah coach Chad Smith and Lafayette coach Paul Woolard exchanged some heated words before going the their respective team’s huddles.
“I think a lot of us thought we had the game won and we turn around the scoreboard doesn’t say so,” said Lafayette wide receiver Preston Martin, who had a career night with five touchdowns. “It is huge to win. Drew kept going all night. They couldn’t stop him and wide receivers were making plays and they couldn’t stop Drew.”
Martin posted numbers that could be school records — Woolard said he would start researching this week — as the senior hauled in 10 catches for 286 yards, which included a pair of 70-plus-yard scoring dashes.
Lafayette scored on four of the its first five possessions of the first half to build a 27-14 lead.
Cortez threw touchdowns on the first four Lafayette drives — the first a 10-yard strike to Malyk Hicks. From then, Martin took over. The wide receiver caught three touchdowns on the next four Irish drives from 17, 39, 5 yards.
In between his last two scores, Clayton McGinness threw 32-yard and 19-yard touchdowns to Chase Simpson to keep the Savages (2-2, 0-2) close.
Lafayette turned to Martin on the second play of the third quarter as Cortez — who finished 18 of 30 for 391 yards — his top target for a 70-yard score.
A flurry of scores closed the third quarter when Taylor Gilbert ran 31 yards for a score, which included hurdling Hicks near the 15-yard line on the way to the end zone. Less than 30 seconds later, Cortez hit Martin for a 71-yard score to extend Lafayette’s lead to 41-21.
The three-possession advantage didn’t last long, setting up a dramatic finish.
“We just shot ourselves in the foot with busted coverage over and over again,” Smith said. “They have better athletes than we do right now. But our kids never gave up and did everything they could to fight back in the second half.”
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