Shut­down ‘D’ se­cures the win

Year af­ter be­ing win­less in con­fer­ence, Pan­thers are show­ing re­newed life

Baltimore Sun - - VARSITY - By Rich Scherr

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.

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