WHEATON – Bob McMillan doesn’t think Amari Head gets the level of credit he deserves.
With his ability to make defenders miss with the ball in his hands, the St. Francis junior running back is dangerous any time the Spartans call his number.
Head scored three touchdowns – two on the ground – to help St. Francis hold off a gritty Sterling team, 35-27, on Sept. 2 at St. Francis’s Kuhn Memorial Stadium.
The 5-foot-10 Head had rushing scores of 16 and 33 yards, finishing the night with 163 total yards (123 rushing).
“That kid is the most underrated player in the area,” McMillen said. “He’s just a phenomenal running back and should absolutely be paying at the next level somewhere. Other teams are going to have to start taking notes on that kid because with his vision, speed, and elusiveness … he won this game for us tonight.”
After Head’s second score at the 9:51 mark of the second quarter, the Spartans struggled to find offensive consistency but managed to take a 14-13 lead into the halftime break.
McMillen said he challenged his kids at halftime to minimize the mental and physical mistakes and play a clean half of football.
The Spartans (2-0) responded.
St. Francis scored on its first three offensive possessions of the second half including Head’s third touchdown of the night – a 10-yard catch and run – to give the Spartans their largest advantage of the night at 28-13 with 3:02 left in the third quarter.
“We just had to put our heads down, move on to the next play and keep fighting,” Head said. “We know we’re a good team, but we just have to keep believing that and we’ll be where we want to be.”
While it seemed on the ropes after Head’s final score, Sterling (1-1) continued to battle. Quarterback JP Schilling found room on a third-and-long to scamper 44 yards for a touchdown to cut St. Francis’ lead back to seven.
Schilling scored a second rushing touchdown to keep Sterling’s hopes alive, but it just couldn’t get a defensive stop when it needed it most.
“Man, that’s a good football team over there,” Sterling coach Jonathan Schlemmer said of St. Francis. “We just couldn’t get that one stop we needed to and couldn’t hold them out when we needed to. We kept ourselves in the game until the end, and we’ll clean some things up, but our kids are going to get better from a game like tonight.”
Sterling had another shot with just over two minutes remaining when St. Francis faced a fourth-and-2 from its own 44.
As was the case for much of Friday night, the Spartans put the ball in Head’s hands in the big moment. Quarterback Alessio Miliojevic found Head out of the backfield for a 16-yard catch to seal the victory.
“Amari is truly amazing,” said Miliojevic, who was a perfect 10-for-10 passing in the second half. “He is such a different player from last year and with his ability to make people miss and everything … we know what kind of playmaker he can be when we get him the ball and that got it done for us tonight.”
Miliojevic finished with 194 passing yards (118 yards, TD in second half) to help St. Francis to the win.
Sterling got strong efforts from the quarterback duo of Schilling (53 rushing yards, 2 TDs) and Kael Ryan (43 rushing yards, 2 TDs).
Brady Piper also had a touchdown for St. Francis.