Photos: David Picariello, Father Judge Jr. Reporter
By John Knebels
PHILADELPHIA – In the grand scheme, it went down as a nonleague victory. After defeating a neighborhood rival, however, it meant a lot more.
After Father Judge shook hands with neighborhood rival Archbishop Ryan following its 35-14 win Saturday afternoon at Northeast High School, the Crusaders headed to the locker room and enjoyed a boisterous celebration. Numerous players were saluted by head coach Frank McArdle, who extolled his excited troops for focusing on the game inside the lines instead of meaningless chatter on social media.
“Not to be rude, but the opinions of people on the outside don’t matter,” said McArdle. “This is a week where everybody had something to say about the game. But that’s not how you win this game. You don’t win it on Twitter. You don’t win it on Facebook. You win it by preparing and you win it when you go out and make plays. We’ve been stressing that. It’s not the emotions; it’s about doing your job.”
Like McArdle, first-year Archbishop Ryan coach Mark Ostaszewski was also pleased with his players’ maturity. Neither team was flagged for an egregious personal foul penalty. Lewd language on both sides was contained to a bare minimum. In the end, Father Judge made more plays.
“You win with class and you have to lose with class, too,” Ostaszewski said. “If they whip your butt, what can you say?”
Aided by two Judge penalties, Ryan began the game with a 19-play drive that ate more than half of the first quarter. But on a 30-yard field goal attempt, Father Judge sophomore Gavin Hutz broke through and blocked the kick.
“That was the most important play,” said senior linebacker/safety Nymeir Appling. “To be honest, I thought they would expect a fake. When we took the momentum, the game just went straight forward in our way.”
Little did anyone know, but the 5-foot-8, 150-pound Hutz was just getting started.
After the Crusaders advanced to the Ryan 17 and lined up for a field goal, junior holder Christian Haigh took the snap, stood up, and fired a pass to a breaking Hutz. Avoiding three must-make tackles, Hutz raced to the end zone to give Judge a 7-0 lead.
“Whenever I get the ball I’m thinking about scoring no matter how short or big of a catch,” said Hutz, “so it was really just about wanting it more than they did and giving my all to get in that end zone.”
As for the blocked kick?
“During the week we saw that there were some holes in Ryan’s special teams that we could get big plays on and the field goal was one of them,” Hutz said. “We knew that I was going to be unblocked off the edge. I got a good jump off the ball and laid out for the block, and I got it clean. I think it lit a spark for the team and gave us momentum for the rest of the game.”
Archbishop Ryan responded with a one-yard touchdown plunge by junior Frankie Mawson to pull within 7-6. An interception by junior Bryce Werner brought the Raider crowd to it feet, but on the first play from scrimmage, a strip sack by senior Tommy Gonglik resulted in a fumble and subsequent touchdown recovery and score by senior Eric Smith.
“The D-line made a good play,” Smith said. “I finished up what they started. Same thing every single day at practice – scoop and score. Every single day.”
Trailing 14-6, the Raiders attempted to score before halftime, but an interception by Appling at the Ryan 22 gave Judge a chance to pad its lead. On the first play, senior quarterback Tyler Yerkov connected with Smith for a 22-yard touchdown.
“In the passing game I took what the defense gave us,” said Yerkov, who threw for 140 yards and two scores. “We were prepared. Heads down. Practicing. Don’t force anything. That pick I forced a little bit. Other than that, I just read the field and saw what was open. We were moving the ball quick. Run it at’em. Run it at’em. You look up and we’re on the 10-yard line.”
Any possible Ryan comeback disintegrated on Judge’s first drive of the third quarter. With Yerkov amassing 18 yards on the ground, the Crusaders moved to the Ryan 32. On a fourth-and-13 from the 32, Yerkov fired a long pass toward the goal line. Among three defenders, Hutz out-jumped the opposition for a backbreaking touchdown.
Late in the third quarter, Judge finished its scoring on a 12-yard haul by sophomore Kysheion Dawkins (69 yards on nine carries). Ryan junior Damien Morgan answered on a nine-yard scoring run late in the fourth.
“Our O-line was doing a good job of blocking and opening up some holes, and then our receivers were making great plays,” McArdle said. “The (second) touchdown that Gavin had. That kid goes up and competes like that. That’s outstanding when a sophomore does that for you.”
Father Judge (1-2 overall) will visit Pope John Paul II on Saturday in its final tune-up before Philadelphia Catholic League Red Division play. Archbishop Ryan (0-3) travels to Conwell-Egan Saturday for a Blue Division opener.
(Contact John Knebels at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @johnknebels.)