BRADENTON -- For Saint Stephen's senior running back Herman Israelsson, Friday's 20-0 victory over Fort Myers Gateway Charter was a long time coming, literally.
The Falcons had not won a game since Israelsson's sophomore year, when they defeated Clearwater Calvary Christian in October of 2010.
Saint Stephen's was riding a 13-game losing streak into Friday's non-district contest, which included going 0-10 last season. but Israelsson made sure his teammates wouldn't have to suffer another winless week by leading the Falcons (1-3) with 110 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
"It feels great," Israelsson said. "I can't even describe it right now. We had a pretty rough season last season and this season is definitely tough too. We started off with a (preseason) win then had a couple of losses, but this is something we really deserve because we've been working hard for it, especially the seniors."
Senior Timothy Nutter added to the shutout with a 5-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to seal the win. Nutter finished the game with three receptions for 38 yards along with 15 yards on the ground.
Israelsson was sidelined most of the third quarter with a neck and knee injury, but when the Falcons reached the goal line following a lengthy fumble recovery return by junior Bradley Beazant, he reentered the game and punched through a crowd of Gateway defenders for a 5-yard touchdown run, giving Saint Stephen's a 14-0 lead following the extra point.
"When you see your teammates out there and they're struggling, it's kind of hard to leave them just because you're hurt," Israelsson said. "I may have a little injury right now, but's it's a little injury. It's not going to stop me from being out there with my team."
Beazant recovered two of Gateway's three fumbles on Friday. The Falcons also struggled holding on to the ball with four fumbles on the night, three of which were recovered by the visiting Griffins.
Senior quarterback Ronnie Tape led Gateway (0-3) with 75 total yards, including 58 through the air. The Griffins have now lost 34 consecutive games.
"I said last week when we got so close (to winning) that the thing that hurt the most was knowing these seniors have worked so hard and sacrificed so much and wanting to see them get a taste," said Saint Stephen's coach Tod Creneti. "Tonight, they get to feel that and know what that feels like to come out and fight hard and get the job done."
Nick Williams, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411 ext. 7049. Twitter:@_1NickWilliams