NEW ULM - Isaiah Johnson did everything for the New Ulm Eagles football team Saturday afternoon except sell popcorn.
The 5-foot-7-inch senior running back scored five touchdowns to lead the Eagles to a 32-12 win over St. James at Johnson Field in a South Central Conference match-up.
Johnson scored on a pair of three-yard runs along with a run of 16 yards. He also latched onto touchdown passes of 10 and 89 yards and added a 53-yard punt return that set up his fourth touchdown of the game.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
New Ulm’s Aaron Stark (1) is interfered with by St. James defensive back Carlos Marquez during the second quarter of the Eagles’ win Saturday at Johnson Field in New Ulm. The result of the play was a pass interference penalty on Marquez that gave the Eagles a first down.
Johnson's efforts gave the Eagles their first win of the season after four straight losses.
"This was a big win for us," said Johnson, who ended with 97 yards receiving and 39 yards rushing on the day. "We have been waiting all season for this. We really needed this win."
Not only was it the first win of the season for the Eagles, but it was also the first win as head football coach for Tony Ortmann.
"The kids played very well today," Ortmann said. "And Isaiah ran hard today. Obviously he owes a lot to his offensive line - they blocked well for him. But he did a nice job of reading his keys today. He followed his offensive linemen, and that was the opening window for him."
The Isaiah Johnson Show had its first act on New Ulm's first possession when quarterback Chris Mulder guided the Eagles on a nine-play, 61-yard drive. A 15-yard run by Johnson and a 17-yard pass completion from Mulder to Jackson Yackley keyed the drive that ended when Johnson caught a 10-yard scoring pass from Mulder for a 6-0 lead after the failed extra point.
But St. James came back and tied the game on the first play of the second quarter when Ryan Menssen rambled in from five yards out.
The Eagles, who play at Waseca next week, capitalized on a bad snap on a St. James punt and took over at the Saints' 16 yard line. It took just one play for Johnson to find the end zone for a 14-6 lead after Yackley caught a two-point conversion pass from Mulder.
But the Saints used a quick-strike offense to cut the lead to 14-12 when quarterback Sam Carlson found Zack Gleiter for a 57-yard touchdown pass with 2:35 left in the first half.
However, New Ulm countered that when it recovered a St. James fumble with 40 seconds left in the first half and marched 45 yards, with Johnson scoring a touchdown on a run of three yards with nine seconds left in the first half.
It was a score that the Saints never recovered from.
"We knew that we were doing what we wanted to do," Johnson said. "We kept it up in the second half."
Johnson's 53-yard punt return early in the third quarter set the stage for him to score on a three-yard touchdown run to build the lead to 26-12.
"I was not supposed to be the featured back today," Johnson said. "The idea was to get the ball to our fullback (Yackley) quite a bit. But I was able to take advantage of my opportunities."
Johnson's fifth touchdown - which all but salted the game away - came on a bootleg pass from Mulder, with Johnson running down the sideline.
"I caught the ball across the middle and I deked my guy out," he said. "Then I saw (New Ulm wide receiver Blake) Neumann down the field and I said to myself, 'Please make your block.' He made it, and I knew that I was gone."
And so was the four-game losing streak for the Eagles.
"We needed this momentum," Ortmann said. "Waseca is a winnable game for us. We need to bring this same effort to Waseca."