WATSON – St. Michael the Archangel senior quarterback Jeffrey Vaccaro was the catalyst on two momentum-changing plays — one in each half — that went a long way in helping to keep his team undefeated.
Vaccaro’s 69-yard sprint set up a short touchdown that provided a lift before halftime and his 29-yard completion on third-and-long led a long third-quarter field goal, a pair of pressure-packed plays that pushed St. Michael’s to a 19-10 road victory Friday over Live Oak.
“When you have two teams that are about as evenly matched as we are, it takes one or two different plays,” St. Michael football coach Paul Varnado said. “Those plays could have gone their way as well. We were fortunate enough to have a couple of good plays go our way that put us in a good position to win the game.”
St. Michael (3-0), trailing 7-6 at halftime, reeled off a stretch of 16 unanswered points for a 16-7 lead with 11:57 remaining on Logan Knox’s 1-yard run.
What made Vaccaro’s second-quarter dash to the goal line so pivotal was the Warriors, which trailed on Michael Claverie’s 42-yard TD pass to Jordan Jones, were limited to 28 yards on 19 plays from scrimmage to that point.
“They had one play the first half,” Live Oak football coach Barry “Tut’ Musemeche said. “We’ve got to make plays and didn’t do it, and they did. Not only did we not make plays, we hurt ourselves when we did make some plays.”
St. Michael made it 9-7 on its opening possession of the third quarter, a series Vaccaro kept alive on third-and-22 by finding C.J. McGarner for the 29-yard reception off a deflection.
Place-kicker Ashton Fletcher, who missed his opening extra point, gave the Warriors the lead for good with a 50-yard field goal with 4:14 left in third quarter.
Fletcher, who accounted for the final score with a 19-yard field goal with 2:00 to play, also contributed a key play from his linebacker position. With Live Oak driving for a possible touchdown on the previous series, Fletcher dropped Kyle Kapps for a 2-yard loss on second-and-goal; Claverie threw incomplete on third down and kicked a 23-yard field goal the next play.
“At the end, making them kick a field goal was huge,” Varnado said. “It changed the complexion of the game.”
St. Michael rushed 34 times for 214 yards with Matthew Butler leading the way with 117 yards on 17 carries — including a 45-yard gain that led to Fletcher’s final field goal. Vaccaro added 74 yards on the ground and passed for 73 more, with McGarner catching two passes for 68 yards.
Defensive back Christopher Reid, who punted five times for a 41-yard average, contributed two interceptions for the Warriors, who also recovered a key first-half fumble inside their own 20.
Live Oak held advantages in first downs 21-9, total offense 356-287 and plays from scrimmage 68-42 but turned the ball over four times and had nine penalties for 85 yards.
Claverie completed 7 of 18 passes for 121 yards, while Will Higginbotham paced a balanced ground game with 88 yards on 16 attempts.
“We moved the ball consistently and shot ourselves in the foot on every drive,” Musemeche said. “It’s frustrating. We probably should have had two or three scores in the first half and didn’t and gave them the momentum. We talked about the last four minutes of the first half and beginning of the second, and they won those moments.”