Blair’s 90-yeard on the game’s opening kick paves the way to a 45-21 victory for the Saints
by Nelson Coffin
It didn’t take St. Mary’s football team very long — just 13 seconds, in fact — to impress a large Homecoming/Senior Night crowd in a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference battle against St. Paul’s at Pascal Field in Annapolis on Friday night.
The feat that had the crowd buzzing from the get-go was a dazzling 90-yard kickoff return by sophomore slotback Dhane Blair that simultaneously set a winning tone for the Saints while giving them a lead they would never relinquish in a 45-21 triumph.
“That took the wind out of our sails,” St. Paul’s coach Scott Ripley said.
Blair said that the Saints’ kickoff return team did its job in a big way.
“We practiced it all week,” he said. “I knew where to run as soon as they kicked the ball, and my teammates blocked exactly as they were supposed to. So it was easy to score, and it was a good way to start. Everybody was hyped.”
Fortunately for St. Mary’s (5-3, 3-1 conference), there was more where that came from as the Saints built a 17-0 bulge on a 24-yard field goal by junior kicker Dominic Donohue and a 3-yard run by senior running back Donald Day III.
St. Paul’s (4-3, 2-2) responded a couple of times in the second quarter on a 26-yard pass from quarterback Leo Kelly to wideout Ryan Rogan and a 60-yard screen pass from Kelly to Princeton Douglas.
In between those scores, however, quarterback Kyle Hill and wideout Ryan Pool hooked up on a 58-yard strike for the Saints to give them a 24-13 halftime cushion — which quickly ballooned into something even more formidable.
Early in the third quarter, Day III ran inside, followed his blockers and raced 26 yards for another touchdown and a 31-13 advantage.
The Saints added to their lead in the final period on senior linebacker Ricky Aufderheide’s 50-yard scoop-and-score of a mishandled lateral and Day’s 1-yard plunge that upped the score to 45-13.
Kelly’s 2-yard run for St. Paul’s final TD came with just over a minute remaining in the game.
The nuts and bolts of the win, as is so often the case, came down to the war in the trenches.
“They run the ball really well,” Ripley said. “They’re big up front.”
St. Mary’s coach Jason Budroni said that his offensive line is the best in the MIAA, regardless of conference.
He praised seniors Joe Smolosk (6-foot-1, 255 pounds)i, Jamie Romo (6-2, 285) , Cole Donoway (6-2, 220), Luke Ellis (6-2, 250) and Parker Lewis (6-0, 250) for opening holes for Day III, junior Marcus Marshall and Jacob Tribull.
The coach added that Day III, who gets most of the carries, is “quick, shifty and tough.”
As for Blair, Budroni said that an injury in the early part of preseason practice that held him out for almost a month had the sophomore “on the bubble” between varsity and JV.
“Little by little, he worked his way back,” Budroni said.
He’s glad Blair recovered.
“I can’t think of a better way to start a game,” he said.
The Saints would like to duplicate Friday night’s effort when the travel to North Baltimore to square off against No. 20 Boys’ Latin next Friday.
The victory keeps St. Mary’s very much alive in the chase for one of the two spots in the league championship game. At 3-1 in the B Conference, St. Mary’s is tied for second-place with Boys’ Latin and just half game back of undefeated Severn (3-0). The Saints play both of those teams in their final two games, which means they control their own destiny and would take the top-seed if they win both.
St. Paul’s is still alive in the playoff chase, but needs to win its remaining conference games against John Carroll and BL and then have a few other things fall its way. With losses against Severn and St. Mary’s, the Crusaders are in a tough spot with the tie-break scenarios. St. Paul’s best path would be to win both games and see St. Mary’s lose both of its games. That would leave St. Paul’s and Boys’ Latin tied for second, but give the Crusaders the tie-breaker based on winning their season-finale with the Lakers. The possibility also still exists for a four-way tie for first and a three-way tie for first and/or second. Suffice to say, there is still a lot to be determined in the final two weeks of the season.
ST. MARY’S HIGH SCHOOL 45, ST. PAUL’S SCHOOL 21
SP 0 13 0 8 — 21
SM 17 7 7 14 — 45
SM — Dhane Blair 90 kickoff return (Dominic Donohue kick)
SM — Dominic Donohue 24 FG
SM — Donald Day III 3 run (Dominic Donohue kick)
SP — Ryan Rogan 26 pass from Leo Kelly (Damian Ramos kick)
SM — Ryan Poole 58 pass from Kyle Hill (Dominic Donohue kick)
SP — Princeton Douglas 60 pass from Leo Kelly (run failed)
SM — Donald Day III 26 run (Dominic Donohue kick)
SM — Ricky Aufderheide 50 fumble (Dominic Donohue kick)
SM — Donald Day III 1 run (Dominic Donohue kick)
SP — Leo Kelly 2 run (Kelly pass to N/A)