Here are the top takeaways from the game:
Holcomb excites in starting QB debut
Sterling junior quarterback Joseph Holcomb was impressive in his first true quarterback start, rushing 26 times for 108 yards and a touchdown, and finishing 6-for-11 for 114 yards and two touchdowns through the air. Holcomb exited early with cramps in Week 1.
The junior passer led a promising 67-yard first-quarter drive to the St. Francis 10, kicking it off with a 14-yard run before connecting on a 13-yard pass to Gage Tate. He later took a 13-yard QB power up the middle, then hit Miles Nawrocki for a 15-yard completion. Holcomb’s blazing speed was on full display on the sprint-outs and designed runs.
“He played last week, he just got some cramp issues. He was only able to play one drive,” Sterling coach Jon Schlemmer said. “He’s a dynamic athlete. We think him and Drew [Nettleton] are both going to help us win games, and they both kind of bring some different skill sets to what we’re going to do. We’re going to be relying on both of those guys to be successful. It’s going to take both of them. But Joseph kind of needed his feet a little bit tonight, and he did a good job.”
Holcomb set up the Golden Warriors’ first scoring drive with an 18-yard pass to running back Andre Klaver. Two plays later, he scored a 5-yard rushing touchdown off left tackle to tie the game 7-7 with 2:47 to play in the half.
In the fourth quarter, Holcomb tossed a 25-yard touchdown to wide receiver Kaedon Phillips in tight coverage, and later threw a 46-yard TD to Mason Emin with 2:02 to play. The score pulled Sterling within 42-28.
“We ran that doubles blast left rhino, just everything going down to the left side. It was really working well for us, clear hole and everything. I had a lot of room to run, and it was going,” Holcomb said. “Second half, I feel like they adjusted a little bit, and I feel like the intensity was still there, but I think our DBs couldn’t quite keep up with their receivers when they were on offense.”
Senior running back Cale Ledergerber added a 44-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Milivojevic sharp for St. Francis
Ball State commit and senior quarterback Alessio Milivojevic lived up to the hype Friday night against Sterling. He led a 46-yard opening drive to put St. Francis up 7-0 midway through the first quarter, setting it up with a 24-yard strike to Zachary Washington. He scored a 1-yard touchdown run on the next-play keeper.
Milivojevic finished 16-for-19 passing for 266 yards and four touchdowns before he exited the game. He also had a 1-yard rushing score.
“We noticed they couldn’t really guard our receivers that good. They had a really good defense, they were blitzing well, they were scheming their blitzes well, but they were playing man over the top, so we started throwing it all over them and it was working,” Milivojevic said about the 28-point second half. “Our guys Ian, Dario, Zach, Tanner, Liam, they were all making really good plays, and I think we just had a really good team effort in the second half.
“The playmakers were insane. I’m leaning on them right now to beat their guy man-on-man, beat a zone and get open. They were doing a really good job getting open, catching it and making plays after getting the ball.”
Milivojevic completed passes of 56, 44 and 46 yards to junior wide receiver Ian Willis. Willis turned in a career-best performance, catching three of the four passing touchdowns and totaling 198 receiving yards on nine receptions. Zachary Washington caught three passes for 53 yards, and hauled in a 12-yard receiving score. Running back TyVonn Ransom rushed 17 times for 97 yards.
“In film all week we were watching them, and we knew that they played man-to-man, so we knew that we should smoke them off the rip with the quick passes and a lot of crossers,” Willis said. “I think our o-line held very well. Our o-line gave our quarterback a lot of time to sit in the pocket, and that just made a lot of room for me to get open and get time.
“Alessio helped me out a lot. I’ve known Alessio for a very long time, he’s one of my best friends. Me and him have a special connection.”