Shutdown ‘D’ secures the win
Year after being winless in conference, Panthers are showing renewed life
What a difference a year has made for the St. Frances football team.
Just one year after going winless in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference, the Panthers – under the direction of a new coaching staff that moved to the school from Gilman – on Friday night took the latest step in their transformation from also-rans to football powers.
In the conference opener for both teams, No. 6 St. Frances scored on the game’s opening drive, then used suffocating defense to make that lead stand up in a 14-0 win over No. 8 Calvert Hall at Morgan State.
The Panthers (5-1 overall, 1-0 in MIAA A Conference), whose roster includes about 20 transfers, had lost to Calvert Hall, 34-20, last season. This time, however, they pitched a shutout against a team that had entered averaging 37 points per game.
“We just tried to come out here, have fun and get after it,” St. Frances defensive lineman B’Ahmad Miller said. “People are going to look at St. Frances in a different way now.”
The Cardinals spent all night looking from behind.
On the game’s very first possession, St. Frances, behind the strong running of senior Gary Brightwell, drove 13 plays, taking a 6-0 lead on Brightwell’s 1-yard plunge just 4:33 into the opening quarter.
“That was a big thing. We talk about starting fast. We wanted to get ahead, that way the defense gets confidence,” St. Frances coach Henry Russell said “It’s good getting the lead, but I’m very proud of our red-zone defense tonight. I thought that was huge.”
Calvert Hall (4-2, 0-1) didn’t lack for opportunities, but simply couldn’t cash in.
Twice in the second quarter, Calvert Hall started drives deep in St. Frances territory, and each time the Panthers defense rose to the task.
First, Chris Cooper’s punt return, coupled with a personal foul at the end of the play, gave the Cardinals the ball at the Panthers’ 21. But they came away empty when Jeff Kordenbock’s 27-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left.
Moments later, Cardinals linebacker Tyshon Fogg picked off a pass over the middle by quarterback Isaiah Robinson. Again, Calvert Hall came up short, losing 10 yards on a sack by defensive back Tyreece Jones before losing the ball when Darion McKenzie intercepted Ben Brooks’ pass in the front of the end zone on fourth-and-25.
“When you’re playing in a game like this, in order to win, when the opportunity presents itself you’ve got to score,” Cardinals coach Donald Davis said.