PORT ST. JOE _ Whether it was coming off a bye week or a bit of complacency in the face of an opponent with a losing record, Port St. Joe was a bit tardy for Friday’s game against Rutherford.

PORT ST. JOE _ Whether it was coming off a bye week or a bit of complacency in the face of an opponent with a losing record, Port St. Joe was a bit tardy for Friday’s game against Rutherford.

When they did arrive the Tiger Sharks (4-0) had enough to put away the game Rams, 27-10, a score not remotely indicative of the closeness of the contest.

Down 10-7 at halftime, the Tiger Sharks dominated the final two quarters, holding Rutherford to just 2 net offensive yards and finally demonstrating offensive balance to find the end zone three times.

But, as Port St. Joe coaches, emphasized to their team afterward, the win was nice but this was a tussle that could have gone either way.

“We had a slow start,” said Port St. Joe coach John Palmer. “We have to keep improving and we have to learn to stop making stupid mistakes to kill drives.

“We challenged them at halftime. They all knew what we had to do. But we are going to face (some challenges) ahead and we have to keep getting better.”

The Tiger Sharks came out for the second half with a passion lacking in the first, forcing the Rams (1-4) into a three-and-out on an opening drive capped by a 14-yard punt.

With the ball at the Rutherford 37, Russell Russ swept right for 13 yards, quarterback Josh Butts found Kelvin Griffin on a 12-yard slant and then perfectly arced a 12-yarder to Kendre Gant in the back right of the end zone.

With less than three minutes off the clock Port St. Joe reclaimed the lead for good, 13-10 after the extra point was blocked.

The next two Tiger Shark drives ended as the result of what Palmer called a series of “self-inflicted” wounds by the offense.

First, Butts tossed an interception inside the Rutherford 10, the only turnover by Port St. Joe.

On the ensuing Port St. Joe drive, a 24-yard field goal by Yanni Pateritas, under a heavy rush, streaked below the crossbar.

But two plays after that miss, Rutherford’s KD Heard (a team-high 62 yards rushing as well as 51 passing) fumbled at his own 19 and Griffin jumped on the loose ball.

Three plays later, from the 14, Jasmin Thomas (12 carries for 57 yards) took a handoff heading off right guard, spun 360 degrees in the backfield and outraced the defense to the left pylon.

Pateritas’ extra point made it 20-10 with 5:56 left, effectively putting the game out of reach.

The Rams were stopped on downs, including two sacks, on the following drive, again giving Port St. Joe great field position at the Rutherford 20.

Butts (a game-high 74 yards rushing and 62 yards passing) snuck over from the 1 and Pateritas did his thing to end the scoring.

The first half was played on relatively even terms, reflected in the offensive yardage which had Port St. Joe enjoying just a 122-121 edge after two quarters.

The first two Port St. Joe drives ended with a field goal wide right from 26 yards and a momentum-muting personal foul penalty.

Butts ran over from the 6 late in the opening quarter, followed by Pateritas’ kick, to give Port St. Joe the early lead, but two big plays put Rutherford on top heading into intermission.

The first was a gorgeous deep throw Heard placed right on the mark to a sprinting Trevon Sims down the left sideline which carried the Rams from the Port St. Joe 44 to the 5.

Unable to move from there, the Rams were forced to settle on a 21-yard field goal by Billy Thompson.

The next time Rutherford had the ball, taking over at its 28 following a Port St. Joe punt, the Rams marched to the Tiger Shark 36, facing a fourth-and-two with 1:12 left in the half.

Heard, on a keeper up the gut, spun out of one tackle, slipped another and sprinted through the secondary for the touchdown, Thompson hitting the extra point to give Rutherford a 10-7 halftime lead.

“We played hard and I am proud of the kids,” said Rutherford coach Loren Tillman. “We continue to see the improvement every day. Not everybody sees these guys every day but we do and we see them making great strides.

“Port St. Joe is not just a great team, but a great program. We battled and in the second half we had to take some gambles that didn’t work. We are here to compete.”