On a team that has become known for its explosive offensie playmaking, the St. Paul’s defense can often be overlooked, but it was front and center, on Friday, as the Crusaders stymied John Carroll offense which came into the contest averaging better than 40 points per game.
The No. 11 Crusaders were like a hungry pack of wolves, tearing through the 16th ranked Patriots, 34-0, in a battle of MIAA B Conference unbeatens in Brooklandville. Senior running back Dale Harris rushed for 171 yards and three touchdowns for St. Paul’s (6-0 overall, 3-0 MIAA B).
Big offensive plays and a stout defensive showing was the recipe for success as the Crusaders stand alone atop the league standings with St. Mary’s handing Boys’ Latin School its first league loss Friday evening in Annapolis. St. Paul’s coach Paul Bernstorf saw his defensive unit record its first shutout in nearly two years.
“Our defense knew it was going to be challenged and I thought they did a great job bottling them up,” said Bernstorf. “We tried to play our base defense as much as we can.”
“We were the most physical team they’ve seen,” said Crusader senior linebacker Travis Wood. “Be physical and all hats to the ball.”
The Patriots (6-1, 2-1 MIAA B), coming in averaging 41 points a game, managed 236 yards Friday, but were denied the end zone on fourth-and-goal from St. Paul’s three-yard line early in the fourth quarter. On the game’s final play, John Carroll quarterback Brandon Lewis lofted a pass down the sidelines that Montrell Martin caught before going out of the bounds at the Crusaders’ 2.
Harris, arguably the best player in the MIAA B so far this season, set the table Friday. After John Carroll blocked the Crusaders’ punt in the opening offensive series, Harris got the ball and advanced it for a first down.
Twelve plays later, Harris exploded through a hole and into the end zone for a 12-yard score. He accounted for 63 yards on the Crusaders’ next possession, a nine-play, 80-yard drive, capped by Harris’ one-yard dive.
“John Carroll has a good defense so I had to be patient,” said Harris, who had 94 yards in the opening 24 minutes. “I didn’t want to be too aggressive. I got the ball and tried to hit the holes.”
The Crusaders blunted John Carroll’s momentum with Hank Ford intercepting Lewis. With just 11 seconds remaining, Rob Suite got behind the Patriots’ secondary to haul in Anthony Pino’s touchdown pass from 25 yards out.
Kaylon Johnson went 80 yards for a touchdown off a jet sweep play and Harris capped his afternoon with a 59-yard jaunt to close out St. Paul’s offense performance. Though Harris has been the headliner, the Crusaders have several big-play weapons at their disposal.
“A lot of different people can touch the ball and make a big play,” said Bernstorf. “Teddy Martinez is a great receiver and commands a lot of respect. Last week and this week we hit Robbie Suite for big-play touchdowns, then all of sudden, Kaylon Johnson shows up and, boom, he’s gone 80 yards for a touchdown.”
After its worst offensive showing, John Carroll coach Rich Stichel is looking for his team to regroup for Boys’ Latin next weekend. Stichel said the blocked punt and defensive lapse on Suite’s touchdown were bad omens.
“We didn’t play our potential and made too many mental mistakes,” said Stichel. “I’m proud of how we played in the second half, but we didn’t play to our potential in the first half. We’ll learn from this and get better.”
There’s little doubt St. Paul’s is the best team right now in the MIAA B. The Crusaders have outscored league foes Archbishop Curley, Annapolis Area Christian School (last year’s league champs) and John Carroll by a combined 126-16.
“We got to stay healthy,” said Harris. “We have a goal of the championship and that’s what we’re chasing.”
No. 11 St. Paul’s School 34, No. 16 John Carroll School 0
John Carroll 0 0 0 0-0
St. Paul’s 7 14 0 13-34
St. Paul’s: Harris 16 run (Price kick)
St. Paul’s: Harris 1 run (Price kick)
St. Paul’s: Suite 25 pass from Pino (Price kick)
St. Paul’s: Johnson 80 run (Price kick)
St. Paul’s: Harris 58 run (kick failed)