ST. AMANT — It wasn’t a thing of beauty, but McKinley coach Robert Signater wasn’t complaining about his team’s win over St. Amant on Friday night.
The Panthers won an ugly 7-3 game against the Gators that saw a flurry of mistakes, with everything from goal-line fumbles to an abundance of penalties rearing their heads.
None of that mattered to Signater, who couldn’t be more proud of his team following its first district win of the season.
“Hell yeah it’s a real big win,” Signater shouted. “The kids showed a lot of faith, didn’t quit — the offense didn’t click, but we made up for it on defense where we played lights out ball.”
Signater wasn’t lying about the offense’s failure to find a rhythm on the road. The Panthers totaled just 157 yards of total offense, all of which came on the ground as quarterback Jawun Ruffin failed to complete a pass throughout the night.
But it wasn’t under center that Ruffin came up the hero for McKinley.
Late in the fourth quarter, Ruffin, who usually lines up at wide receiver but replaced Christian Smith at quarterback, dropped back to field a punt. A few seconds and 69 yards later, Ruffin was celebrating what was the game-winning score for the Panthers.
“First, I was just hoping I wouldn’t get hit while I was catching it,” Ruffin said. “Then, I made the first defender miss and I was just off to the races after that.”
Ruffin said he felt a lot of jitters before his first game starting at quarterback after only taking a few snaps this season in wildcat situations. He said he was able to calm down after the first half. He finished the game with 13 carries for 23 yards.
The Gators’ night didn’t go much smoother as they surrendered three turnovers.
“I think they whipped us up front,” St. Amant coach David Oliver said. “They have a big, physical front and they got after us. … We didn’t really block anybody, dropped a few balls — we were just very inconsistent and never got anything going.”
St. Amant recorded minus-4 yards rushing in the first half and just 16 yards in the second.
Gators quarterback Tyler Dixon completed 19 of his 34 passes for 283 yards against the Panthers defense, including a pair of interceptions.
St. Amant’s lone score came with just 45 seconds left to play in the first half when kicker Briggs Bourgeois hit a 24-yard field goal.
The Gators had a chance to win the game at the end when McKinley kicker Aden Lopez missed wide right on a 26-yard try following a big goal-line stand by St. Amant — its second of the night.
“We didn’t take our time, we fumbled the snap a couple of times,” Signater said of his team’s red zone performance. “When we get down there on teams like that, you have to score. If you don’t, this is what’s going to happen. It could’ve ended up either way.”