BRADENTON -- The quarterback went down during the game's first series.
The opponent needed five plays to put the ball in the end zone.
Such occurrences typically spell doom for Saint Stephen's football team.
Thursday night, however, the Falcons flipped the script.
Playing in their final home game of the season, the Falcons throttled Fort Myers Evangelical 35-19 at Palma Sola Park.
Saint Stephen's improved to 2-5 overall and 1-4 in Class 2A-Urban District 6, the win marking their first over a district opponent
since Oct. 22, 2010.
"Of all the things that I was most proud of (Thursday) is the fact that we went down, as we have many times," said Falcons coach Tod Creneti, whose team trailed 7-0 less than five minutes into the game, "and then scored right away and acted like it never happened. That shows that our kids are maturing as players, that their character is getting better."
Saint Stephen's celebrated Senior Night on Thursday, so it was only fitting that Herman Israelsson, a mainstay in the program, was the star, chugging for 272 yards on 22 carries.
His 53-yard first-quarter score knotted the game at 7 with 6:11 remaining. Israelsson added a 68-yard touchdown run in the second quarter and a 64-yard one in the third, the last of which came 18 seconds after the Sentinels closed to within 28-13.
"In the middle of the season, I had problems with my knees," said Israelsson, who suffers from Osgood-Schlatter syndrome, a knee condition. "It was a little tough cutting. Because we had a bye week (last week), I got to rest up, I got to stretch a little extra, so that really helped me out. It really allowed me to cut better."
Israelsson wasn't the lone contributor for the Falcons, who lost quarterback Bobby Harrison to an ankle injury during the game's third play from scrimmage. Harrison's replacement, Sam Dages, hit Tim Nutter on a play-action pass that went for a 27-yard touchdown that gave the Falcons a 14-7 lead with 31 seconds remaining the first quarter.
Nutter also returned an interception 45 yards for a touchdown less than four minutes before halftime and ran for 42 yards on eight carries.
"We absolutely played like brothers, and it's just awesome," said Israelsson, who was born in Sweden. "This is what I've been looking for since I've been here. So I'm really happy. I'm proud of all the boys -- everybody on the team played great."
Though the Falcons won't be making a playoff appearance this season, they have played better as the year has gone on. And with a roster laden with 17 underclassmen, Creneti hopes that builds toward the next three games and carries into the spring.
"I think that our kids feel support in ways that they haven't in the past," he said. "And I think that they feel a responsibility to the guys in our middle school, to the kids in our community, to make sure that football is something that you can be proud to be a part of. They take that very seriously. That's a big responsibility for a 15-, 16-year-old kid to take on, but they do it every day."