Mount St. Joseph outlasts Pallotti in double OT in football debut (VIDEO HERE!)

With teammate Koron Lambert leading the way, Mount St. Joseph running back Bryce Cox (3) looks for yardage as Pallotti’s Braxton Harsley closes in during Saturday’s football contest. The Gaels blew a 19-0 second half lead, but recovered to claim a 22-19 double overtime victory over the Panthers in Irvington.

by Derek Toney

There was smiles and some sighs of relief on the Mount St. Joseph High football sidelines after Scott Martin’s game winning field goal Saturday afternoon.

But not Martin.

“It hit off the post and that’s not a good enough result,” said Martin. “It should be over the uprights and right down the middle. Clearly, I haven’t put in enough work so I got to go back and put in more work until I can make it confidently in those critical game-time situations.”

It was pretty obvious after a 22-19 double overtime victory over St. Vincent Pallotti at John Plevyak Field in Southwest Baltimore, the Gaels have much to improve on.

But after 371 days, Mount St. Joseph football is back.

“We’ve been through a lot of adversity,” said Gaels senior wideout Ausar Crawley.

It’s been a roller coaster for Mount St. Joseph since hoisting the MIAA A Conference championship on a frigid night last November at Archbishop Spalding’s Whittles Field. In April, Rich Holzer stepped down as coach for the same position at Calvert County’s Northern.

Dom Damico, one of the MIAA’s most successful coaches, replaced Holzer. The Gaels weren’t able to gather for offseason conditioning – albeit altered – until the summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The MIAA allowed member schools, at their own discretion, to participate in an “open season” for the fall starting late last month. The Gaels were slated to start Nov. 7, but a positive COVID-19 test sidelined them.

“It’s very important that we’re playing…it’s tough though,” said Damico, who won eight MIAA titles in 24 seasons at McDonogh School (stepped down in 2018). “When you shut a team down for COVID related issues and don’t get to practice for 14 days, it’s hard to get back out there rolling again.”

The Gaels (1-0) overcame rust, and a relentless Pallotti squad, to win their long-awaited debut Saturday. Senior quarterback Billy Atkins threw three touchdowns, two to Crawley, who had four catches for 115 yards. Senior wideout Tyler Wilkins added a 57-yard touchdown reception.

Mount St. Joseph’s defense, the catalyst for its 2019 championship run, came through Saturday after blowing a 19-point second half lead. The Gaels stopped Pallotti two times inside their 1-yard line to force a second overtime.

In the second overtime, junior linebacker Charles Wilson intercepted Panther quarterback Kenny Prince, putting Mount St. Joseph in position for victory.

After missing wide on a field goal attempt in the first OT, Martin’s kick hit the right upright and the ball fell over the crossbar.

Far from perfect, but it was victory nonetheless for The Mount. The end appeared unlikely early Saturday.

Late in the opening quarter, Atkins (seven-of-20, 249 yards) hit an open Wilkins down the sidelines for the Gaels’ first score of the season. Crawley grabbed a pass from Atkins and sped into the end zone, completing a drive that featured a 70-yard pass play and an Atkins fumble.

“We definitely didn’t execute the way we’d like to, but we got a lot of seniors on the team,” said Crawley, one of 24 seniors. “We encouraged each other, continued to fight and made enough plays to win the game.”

Mount St. Joseph got the ball back at Pallotti’s 10 after a Panther fake punt attempt backfired. The Gaels overcame two holding penalties as Crawley captured Atkins’ toss on a skinny post play.

Pallotti (2-1), which rallied past Calvert Hall College last weekend, produced another second half comeback Saturday. Atkins bobbled a shotgun snap, and Panther senior linebacker Connor Maloney fell on the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.

Prince, who rushed for 120 yards, scooted 15 yards for a score, bringing Pallotti to 19-13 late in the third quarter. The Laurel school got the ball back after an interception by Cameron Prescott, but couldn’t convert into points.

Late in regulation, Pallotti marched 80 yards in nine plays as Prince pushed his way over the goal line with 19 seconds remaining. The Gaels blocked Maloney’s extra-point kick and the first overtime of the 2020 pandemic football season was secured.

In the first OT, Maloney sacked Atkins on third down, and Martin’s 35-yard field goal attempt was tipped and sailed right. Prince was stopped inches short of the goal line on a second down run.

The Panthers had two chances to win, but Mount St. Joseph’s defensive front including Schulze, Brandon Pique, Connor Roman, Izu Igwe and Chris Marable didn’t bulge.

“It’s one thing just to practice and play with your teammate, but having real competition is something else,” said Schulze, a junior two-way linemen. “We let off the throttle and let them comeback.”

Pallotti, which won the MIAA B title last fall, fell inches short of completing an improbable rally Saturday. Prince added 108 yards passing, but threw three interceptions (two to Gaels senior Jabari Echols).

Panthers coach Tony Ashley was proud of his team’s effort.

Mount St. Joseph, with Scott Martin (left), Ausar Crawley and Stephen Schulze, had to work in its 2020 football debut Saturday. Martin’s 35-yard field goal in the second overtime lifted the Gaels to victory at John Plevyak Field in Baltimore City.

“I told them at halftime they could cut the deficit or let it get larger, they chose the first,” said Ashley, whose team’s 12-game winning streak, dating back to last season, ended Saturday. “It was a team effort. On the scoreboard we lost, but in our hearts and minds, we won.”

Despite the uneven showing, Mount St. Joseph’s championship pedigree proved in the end. The Gaels will have to progress quick with a Thanksgiving morning date with Archbishop Spalding (2-0) next.

“They’re one of our rivals and we got a bullseye on our back because we beat them pretty bad last year, and they have a lot of momentum,” said Crawley. “We know we got to play better than what we did today.”

Mount St. Joseph 22, St. Vincent Pallotti 19 (2 OT)

Pallotti 0 0 13 6 0 0 – 19

Mount St. Joseph 6 13 0 0 0 3 – 22

First quarter

Mount St. Joseph – Tyler Wilkins 57 pass from Will Atkins (pass failed)

Second quarter

Mount St. Joseph – Ausar Crawley 30 pass from Atkins (pass failed)

Mount St. Joseph – Crawley 27 pass from Atkins (Scott Martin kick)

Third quarter

Pallotti – Connor Maloney fumble recovery in end zone (run failed)

Pallotti – Kenneth Prince 15 run (Maloney kick)

Fourth quarter

Pallotti – Prince 2 run (kick blocked)

Second overtime

Mount St. Joseph – Martin 35 field goal