His Gaels knocked off Good Counsel for the first time in 23 years


by Gary Adornato

After coming close in 2016, Mount St. Joseph finally ended a losing streak to WCAC football power Good Counsel dating back to 1994, on Saturday, defeating the Falcons handily, 26-14, on the road. The achievement earned St. Joe coach Rich Holzer the honor being the 2017 Week 2 Baltimore Touchdown Club Coach of the Week.

Running-back Marlow Wax torched Good Counsel for 251 yards rushing, including a 61-yard TD run to open the scoring, and freshman quarterback Billy Atkins threw for three scores.

“We had a close call last year with a two point loss as time expired,” said Holzer of his team’s win over a program which is regularly ranked on the national stage. “I think that really motivated the team.”

Top football programs rarely start a freshman at quarterback, but according to Holzer, Atkins is not your typical freshman.

“He has been outstanding,” said Holzer. “He may be a freshman, but he does not play or act like it. He is very knowledgeable about the game. He has outstanding leadership qualities for someone who’s only 14 years old. He’s also a kicker and punter so he has a lot of pressure on his shoulders and he handles it like a seasoned veteran. He has the full freedom of our playbook. He is so smart he can audible on the line of scrimmage after only six months working in our offense.

“Everyone has a tremendous amount of respect for Billy, not only athletically but for his leadership. He’s very calm and cool even in situations that will get most seasoned players flustered. This is just the tip of the iceberg for this young man. I can guarantee one day he will have his name on the Hall of Fame at MSJ.”

St. Joe is now 2-1. After a surprise season-opening loss to St. Mary’s-Ryken, when the Gaels’ late rally fell two points short against a team that is surprising many thus far in 2017. The Gaels, however, bounced back to rout Cardinal O’Hara (NY), 40-8, in Buffalo, and then knock off Good Counsel.

Holzer said the team, currently ranked No. 6 by VSN, is progressing just fine and actually improved because of its opening loss.

“The guys were very motivated (after the opening loss. We really had a short training camp, only 15 days and one scrimmage to prepare. I think we are still figuring out who we are because we are so young this year. We really did not have a chance to get the right personnel in the right places before that game. A credit to them, they figured that out and exploited match ups in the first half. I think we left that game, believe it or not, with a lot of excitement because all of the team saw what Billy can do at quarterback, once we made the switch midway through the third quarter. And only a quarter of play he led us to three touchdowns. I think that was the big motivation; people saw what was in store for the following week.”

Holzer also gave tremendous credit to his coaching staff which consists of Rob McCloud (defensive coordinator), Pete Hughes (special-teams coordinator/defensive backs coach), Brendon Twilley (linebackers coach), Tim Perry (defensive line coach), Kevin Lambert (offensive line coach), Chris Brooks (running backs) and Tony Brockmyer (wide receivers), as well as the JV staff of Bryant Jones, Wayne Mobley, Jarin Roberts, Ed Freeman, Joe Jenkins and Dennis Harding and the freshman staff of of Josh Vicchio, Brian Townshend, Rocco Vicchio and Steve Jeffreys. Finally, Holzer credited strength coach Chris Ziesat.

“Our entire staff works really well together. I don’t believe anyone person works harder than the other. I am lucky to have a dedicated and motivated staff. They care about the kids first and foremost. I believe the quality instruction and so many on our staff having a direct link to MSJ personally resonates with our kids. I feel we have one of the best coaching staff’s in the entire state.”

Holzer was very appreciative of being recognized by the BTC.

“To me personally this is a tremendous honor. It is such a big honor to me because it is voted on by fellow coaches. It means that your peers have a great deal of respect for you and your program. I believe that speaks volumes about any coach that his colleagues believe he is a quality coach and leader.

“The BTC has been invaluable to the state. It has provided leadership, direction and a chance to grow the sport in our state. They have been involved in so many outstanding efforts it will be difficult to name them all. We are very fortunate to have such a selfless and dedicated organization in our state to further the greatest game ever played.”