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St. Joe’s takes care of business against Cardinal O’Hara

blog by Dan Ludwig  • 

The Cardinal O’Hara Hawks had upset on their minds when they traveled to Kenmore on Oct. 8 to play the St. Joe’s Marauders.  With one win this season, O’Hara faced a difficult task; Joe’s had only lost one game all year and was undefeated in league play.  In the end, Joe’s offense proved too much for the Hawks; the Marauders topped O’Hara 48-20.

The game started well for O’Hara.  On the opening kickoff, the Hawk kicker miss-hit the ball and instead of the natural, high arc that a kickoff usually takes, the ball shot off the tee as if it was on a frozen rope.  The St. Joe’s blocker could not react in time to the line drive and the ball bounced off his chest; O’Hara rushed down the field and covered the fumble—just how the Hawks drew it up, I’m sure.

With the ball already in Joe’s territory, O’Hara looked to capitalize on the fortuitous turn of events.  The style of offense that the Hawks were playing can be compared to the wishbone; the offensive scheme heavily favors the ground attack and does well to drain time from the clock. 

“I think they were trying to hold the ball a little to keep our offense off the field,” said St. Joe’s coach Dennis Gilbert of the Hawks’ offensive approach.

Not willing to end the drive without scoring, the Hawks faked a punt on fourth down via a direct snap to the running back, who converted the attempt for a first down.  The running game continued to work well for O’Hara as the drive rolled down the field and was capped by a powerful run from Hawk running back Kyree Carter, who plowed into the end zone to start the game’s scoring.  After the PAT attempt was blocked, the scoreboard read 6-0 in favor of the visitors.

But St. Joe’s was able to answer the O’Hara scoring drive with one of their own; quarterback Chad Kelly connected with wide receiver Nigel Davis on two separate passes that put the Marauders on the goal line.  At the goal line, Kelly kept the snap and dove over the left side of his offensive line, scoring a touchdown.  The Marauders were successful on their PAT and went ahead 7-6.

The most suspenseful moment of the first half came on the last play of the first quarter when a defensive lineman fell on Kelly’s ankle while the quarterback stood in the pocket.  Kelly laid on the grass for a moment before getting helped off field.  The Joe’s sideline seemed tense as the players and coaches tried to ignore the fact that the team’s star was out of commission, at least for the moment. 

Back-up quarterback and sophomore Tyler Hill replaced Kelly under center; the sophomore was untested and a widely unknown commodity entering the game.  That said, he showed confidence at the line of scrimmage as he checked off to different plays when he realized where he could exploit the defense.  Hill’s poise was confirmed when he hit wide receiver Kyle Briggs for an 18-yard touchdown with 9:24 left in the second quarter, making the score 14-6 in favor of St. Joe’s.

The tension on the Joe’s sideline was relieved when Kelly led the offensive unit back on the field for the team’s next drive; Kelly showed no ill effects from the ankle injury as he hooked up with running back Ilo Noble in the end zone for another Joe’s score.  With 6:16 left in the second quarter, the home team led 21-6.

“You gotta suck it up,” said Kelly after the game about his injury.  “I had family here today so I couldn’t sit out.”

Down by two scores, O’Hara realized that it needed to get away from its heavily reliance on the run game.  I could tell that the Hawks did not feel comfortable throwing the ball; the new passing formations led to a number of pre-snap penalties including illegal motions and false starts.  Although it was the Hawks’ only option, the passing scheme was not productive for O’Hara.

Joe’s added a pair of touchdowns before the half to make the score 35-6 as the teams headed to the locker room.  At the end of the intermission, someone who had just arrived to watch the second half could have guessed the score without seeing the scoreboard; while St. Joe’s jogged out of the locker room with positive chatter coming from players and coaches, the O’Hara players walked slowly and silently to their sideline, indicating that they did not have the right attitude to come back from the first half deficit.

The halftime break did not do much to help the Hawks; St. Joe’s kept the ball in the air in the second half and with 5:28 left in the third quarter Kelly connected with Briggs for yet another touchdown (Briggs’ third on the day).

With the score 42-6, St. Joe’s began substituting many of its starting players as the game moved into the fourth and final quarter.  With new players in for Joe’s, O’Hara was able to punch in two touchdowns, making the score 42-20 halfway through the final period.

The game’s scoring was capped off by an exhilarating 80-yard kickoff return for Joe’s by Noble.  Scoring for the second time that day, Noble started off on the right side of the field and sprinted towards the far sideline; once his route was cut off on that side of the field, he began looping all the way back to the right.  As he zig-zagged through would-be Hawk tacklers, his blockers sealed off the right sideline (where the play originally started).  Noble found daylight on the sideline and sprinted to the end zone.  That made the final score 48-20, Marauders. 

Looking ahead, O’Hara will face-off against Canisius High School next week.  St. Joe’s will travel to Ohio to battle Steubenville, a powerhouse program that will offer a serious challenge for the Marauders. 

Coach Gilbert discussed the perennial success of Steubenville, saying, “They don’t rebuild, they just reload.” 

TAGGED: chad kelly, high school football, st joe's

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