HARVARD – The Harvard football team’s focus in practice this past week was stopping St. Edward running back Davonte Elam. After running for 1,382 yards and 16 touchdowns in the regular season, the Hornets knew that slowing down Elam was their key to controlling the game.
Harvard’s defense held Elam to 44 yards on 15 carries, and the second-seeded Hornets (10-0) won their Class 4A first-round playoff game, 40-22, over the 15th-seeded Green Wave.
“We knew that he was our key,” linebacker Tate Miller said. “Going into the game, he was one of the guys we were key reading. Stop him first, and we stop the run.”
Harvard stopped Elam for a 1-yard loss on the first play of the game, and after running for 12 yards on the second play, he didn’t have a run or more than 6 yards the rest of the game.
“In the playoffs, every team is a good team, so you have to come ready to play, and we were ready to do that,” Miller said.
With rain turning the field into muck, Harvard quarterback Peyton Schneider didn’t expect much in the passing game, but the game plan changed quickly.
On his first throw, Schneider hit fullback Ben Platt wide open up the seam for a 55-yard touchdown on the Hornets’ second possession of the game. Schneider said the play was put in just this week after watching film.
“We just put that play in for Benny,” Schneider said. “We got him split open against a man, and we knew as soon as he broke through that second level that he would be wide open.”
Schneider’s second touchdown came when the Hornets faced fourth-and-8 from the St. Edward 30-yard line. Schneider play-actioned to running back Christian Kramer and rolled out to his right to lead the weakside defensive end before going back to hit Sergio Ramirez wide open on the left side. Ramirez, with lineman Adam Friemund and Juan Carbajal getting blocks out front, ran it in 30 yards for the score.
Schneider finished 8 of 15 for 167 yards, with Justin Nolen pulling down four receptions for 55 yards.
Although the Green Wave struggled to run the ball, the Hornets offensive line of Friemund, Carbajal, Kyle Peterson, Anthony Milanko and Dakota Trebes helped pave the way, with 217 of Harvard’s 384 total yards coming on the ground.
Kramer led the Hornets with 116 yards on 21 carries, but it was fullback Jose Mejia’s inside runs that helped open things up for Kramer. With the St. Edward defense keying on not letting Kramer bounce runs to the outside, Mejia had 96 yards on 15 carries.
“I think they were keying on Christian,” Mejia said. “It was just good blocking on the line.”
After Ramirez recoverd a fumble for the Hornets, Mejia had a 23-yard run to set up a first-and-goal, with Kramer scoring on the next play from 3 yards out for the second score of the game. Mejia added a 3-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
The Hornets defense added three interceptions, including an 80-yard return for a touchdown by Fernando Carrera.
“It’s an unselfish group,” Hornets coach Tim Haak said. “They don’t care about credit. They just want the end result.”