Second half offensive surge carries the Eagles
by Nelson Coffin
Annapolis Area Christian School coach Mike Lynn showed his softer side after the Eagles captured their second MIAA C Conference football title in four years by edging defending champ St. John’s Catholic Prep, 21-16, on Saturday afternoon at Archbishop Spalding.
“There’s not one selfish player on this team,” Lynn said, his voice becoming thick with emotion as tears welled in his eyes. “No one ever asks anything about their own stats.”
The Eagles (8-2, 7-0 conference) shared many things this season with each other, including being undefeated in conference play.
On Saturday, though, both teams struggled offensively, which is another way of saying that the defenses dominated.
That was certainly the case on St. John’s second possession of the opening period when quarterback Sully Dowling was picked off by AACS junior defensive back Thaddeus Standfield, who snared the pass in the flat and never broke stride on his way 55 yards for a touchdown.
Senior kicker Jack Rosacker’s conversion boot gave the Eagles a 7-0 advantage with seven minutes remaining in the quarter.
The Vikings (5-6, 5-3) produced a stellar defensive play of their own when Brandon Louis blocked a punt from the 3-yard line and pounced on it in the end zone before Zac Rutsch’s point-after knotted the score, 7-7, with eight minutes, 48 seconds left in the first half.
All told, the Eagles were held to -64 yards from the line of scrimmage in the first half, although they turned that around — big-time — in the third quarter.
“They handled us in the first half,” Lynn admitted. “They’re a well coached team and we weren’t playing our style of football. We weren’t playing to our strengths.”
To offset Rutsch’s 31-yard field goal that briefly gave the St. John’s a 10-7 lead, AACS retaliated twice through the air to jump ahead, 21-10
The first came on a 60-yard strike from quarterback Ryan Idleman to senior wideout Cameron Williams with under 10 minutes to go in the period.
“I saw their corner moving up,” Idleman said. “We faked the post and it was open.”
Next, Idleman connected with junior wideout Joey Dixon on a 5-yard scoring play after a 32-yard Idleman-to-Williams pass moved the ball to the Viking 5.
“In certain spots, we had guys who were a little taller and a little faster,” Lynn said, when asked about how the Eagles’ passing game became untracked in the third quarter.
Idleman, who started the season with zero touchdown passes and five interceptions, dramatically turned things around by tossing for a dozen scores without being picked off to close the campaign.
Meanwhile, it was the Vikings who had trouble moving the ball after accumulating 71 yards from the line of scrimmage in the opening half.
Following the field goal, it was tough sledding for St. John’s, which did not score again until Joey Keys crossed the goal line with 48 seconds left in regulation.
A spate of injuries took its toll on the Vikings, coach Daryl Hayes said.
“We lost four starters, and all four are going to the hospital,” Hayes said, noting that Wylan Harich appeared to have a broken hand, Keys played until the final play with broken ribs and Derek Newton Jr. and Andrew Shanley were also forced to the sideline. “We just don’t have the depth that they do, and we don’t really have the athletes that they do. They have athletes coming out their ears.”
Hayes added that the standard joke among St. John’s coaches is that “if we were blessed to coach those guys, we’d beat us by seven touchdowns.”
As it was, the game was competitive enough that the final onside kick by St. John’s was important, although the way Eagles’ defense was playing, they were never seriously threatened in the second half.
“We feel like we have the best athletes in the conference,” Idleman said. “And our defense is great. They don’t take plays off and they know what to do.”
MIIA C CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
(AT ARCHBISHOP SPALDING)
ANNAPOLIS AREA CHRISTIAN SCHOOL 21, ST. JOHN’S CATHOLIC PREP 16
SJCP 0 7 3 6 — 16
AACS 7 0 7 0 — 21
AACS- Thaddeus Stansfield 55 interception (Jack Rosacker kick)
SJCP-Brandon Louis 3 blocked punt (Zak Rutsch)
SJCP-Zak Rutsch 31 field goal
AACS-Cameron Williams 60 pass from Ryan Idieman (Jack Rosacker kick)
AACS-Joey Dixon 5 pass from Ryan Idieman (Jack Rosacker kick)