Stewart shines in Indian’s playoff victory over Kent City
By Jason Wesseldyk
KENT CITY—Senior quarterback Brad Dunn has been the focal point of the Saugatuck offense this season. And with good reason.
During the regular season, Dunn rushed for nearly 2,200 yards and 38 touchdowns to lead the Indians to an 8-1 record.
But in Saugatuck’s Division 7 playoff opener against host Kent City on Friday, Oct. 26, fellow senior Jacob Stewart reminded everyone the Indians are far more than a one-man team.
Stewart ran for 203 yards and three second-half touchdowns as Saugatuck turned what had been a 21-21 tie at halftime into a 49-28 victory.
And as if his offensive exploits weren’t enough, Stewart also shined defensively. He recovered a fumble at the Saugatuck 16-yard line early in the fourth quarter before causing a fumble that was recovered by teammate Sam Beckman at the Kent City 1-yard line on the next Eagle possession.
“Jacob had a great game on both sides of the ball,” Saugatuck coach Bill Dunn said. “I told him before the game I had a feeling he was going to be the key for us, that if he had a good game we were going to win. He came up huge.”
Three of Stewart’s runs covered more than 50 yards, including a 55-yard jaunt that put Saugatuck ahead for good at 35-28 with 1:36 left in the third quarter. He also had a 70-yard scoring run on the Indians’ first possession of the fourth quarter to make the score 42-28.
“I owe (the strong performance) to my line,” Stewart said. “They’re out here grinding and I’m just trying to do my best for them.”
The play of the offensive line helped the Indians churn out 571 rushing yards, led by a 227-yard effort by Dunn. Sophomore Nick Stanberry, making has varsity debut, added 138 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries.
The second of those touchdowns by Stanberry came after the fumble recovery by Beckman and covered 99 yards to close out the game’s scoring with 5:39 left to play.
“Nick is a big, physical kid,” Bill Dunn said. “I love his mentality. When you’re a running back for us, you have to be able to block and tackle and he does those things well. We could have brought him up (to the varsity team) earlier, but I think this was a good time for his debut.”
Stanberry made his presence felt early in the second quarter on a 7-yard TD run that tied the game at 14-14 before, following a defensive stop by the Indians, Brad Dunn gave Saugatuck its first lead at 21-14 on a 1-yard run.
A 12-yard run by Kent City’s Giovanni Weeks tied the score at 21-21 heading to halftime. Weeks, who had a 40-yard touchdown early in the half, finished with 317 yards and three touchdowns.
The teams exchanged touchdowns to open the second half—Saugatuck getting a 2-yard run by Stewart and Kent City getting a 24-yard run by Weeks—before Stewart’s 55-yard TD started a string of 21 unanswered points for the Indians.
“Weeks is a great athlete,” Bill Dunn said. “We knew he was going to be a load, but we have that bend-but-don’t-break mentality on defense.
“We got one defensive stop in the first half and forced them to punt and then we got those two fumble recoveries in the red zone in the second half. That’s what we need our defense to do.”
Beckman led the defense with 16 total tackles, while Jared Latchaw had seven tackles. Brad Dunn added an interception in the fourth quarter.
With the win, the Indians advance to play two-time defending Division 7 state champion Pewama-Westphalia (10-0) in a district final.
P-W beat Saugatuck 21-0 in the state finals last season and has ended the Indians’ season with a playoff loss four of the past five seasons.
“We know them well,” Bill Dunn said. “They have experience and size again this season and we’ll have to play a near-perfect game to beat them. But we’re gong to go out there and hopefully our scheme will work out will and give us the opportunity to get a win.”
Stewart is optimistic.
“We’re going into a tough one,” he said. “We haven’t had a good game against them since day one, but I have a good feeling about this one.”