Senior Avery Jones admitted that he and his Mount St. Joseph teammates got off to a bit of a slow start against Loyola Blakefield in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference opener for both schools on Saturday afternoon in Irvington.
Once the fourth-ranked Gaels settled in, however, they very quickly powered past the No. 10 Dons, 40-0.
St. Joe scored once in the first minute of the second quarter, once in the middle of the period and twice, in a nine-second span, in the final minute to build a 26-0 halftime advantage at Plevyak Field and cruise the rest of the way.
Winston Watkins directed an aerial attack that Loyola had a difficult time stopping. The 6-foot-6 junior quarterback tossed for four touchdowns in the second quarter — two to senior Avery Jones and one each to senior Trey Goodridge and sophomore Peyton Youngbar.
Watkins added one for good measure in the third quarter to senior Bryce Cox.
”We were shaky at first,” Jones said. “Maybe it was pregame jitters. Then we locked in and we executed. We started making completions. When our line is blocking like that, we’re unstoppable.
”Watkins credited the defense for giving the Gaels good field position, which was evident in the last possession of the first quarter when Loyola was forced to punt from its own 11-yard line.
”Our defense really kicked in today,” he said.
After senior Carter Davis returned the punt 24 yards to the Dons’ 28-yard line, Watkins found Goodridge for a 13-yard gain to reach the red zone. Four plays later, Watkins connected with Youngbar for the game’s first TD.
The Gaels did not benefit from good field position on their second score. Instead they started from their own 7-yard line a couple of plays before Watkins rifled a slant pass that Jones caught in stride and outraced the Dons’ secondary for a 75-yard touchdown.
Later in the second period, St. Joe senior Deshaun Merrick recovered a fumble at the Loyola 32 and the Gaels capitalized four plays later on an 11-yard strike from Watkins to Goodridge in the corner of the end zone to build the lead to 20-0.
On the ensuing squib kick, senior Carter Davis pounced on the ball at the Dons’ 23 and Watkins wasted no time in ballooning the score to 26-0 after tossing a 23-yard pass to Jones.
Loyola was unable to cash in after senior linebacker Barrett Jorgensen recovered a fumble at the Gaels’ 32 early in the final frame, mainly because the Dons also gave the ball back on a fumble that junior Greg Roman recovered for St. Joe.
Such was the way things went for the Dons, who fell to 1-3 and 0-1 in league play. Mount St. Joe improved to 3-2 and 1-0.
”Last week was just kind of weird and bizarre,” Loyola coach Anthony Zehoyue said, alluding to a gut-wrenching overtime loss to St. Mary’s. “But I don’t think we had a hangover from it. It may not seem like it because of the score, but we did a lot of good things today. We just gave up a lot of plays on third-and-long and fourth-and-long. We just have to keep coaching. One good thing about high school kids is that they bounce back quickly.”
St. Joe coach Dom Damico said that his challenging schedule helped slow the game down for his players.
”We’ve had really good preparation (for the conference season),” he said about a team that lost a close game to St. Ignatius of Ohio before suffering a 52-14 setback to Washington Catholic Athletic Conference power Our Lady of Good Counsel. “We were ready to play.”
The coach added that Winston is the real deal.
”He’s big and he can make all the throws,” he said. “He can go over the top or throw it hard (on shorter passes, like the slant to Jones). And we are deep at receiver.”
Damico also noted that junior defender Sahir West has the ability to be a Power Five-level player and that the versatility of senior two-way performers Merrick and Nick Paxton were keys for a defense that never allowed the Dons to advance inside the St. Joe 30-yard line.
NO. 4 MOUNT ST JOSEPH 40, NO. 10 LOYOLA BLAKEFIELD 0
LB 0 0 0 0 — 0
MSJ 0 26 7 7 — 40
MSJ-Peyton Youngbar 17 pass from Winston Watkins (Chris Degroote kick)
MSJ-Avery Jones 75 pass from Winston Watkins (Chris Degroote kick)
MSJ-Trey Goodridge 11 pass from Winston Watkins (kick blocked)
MSJ-Avery Jones 23 pass from Winston Watkins (run failed)
MSJ-Bryce Cox 3 pass from Winston Watkins (Chris Degroote kick)
MSJ-Bryce Cox 1 run (Chris Degroote kick)