Mount St. Joseph rallies past St. Mary’s Ryken in football opener, retains Brother Lambert Cup; Watkins throws two scores (VIDEO HERE!)

Mount St. Joseph wide receiver Dominic Kibby (5) captures the ball against St. Mary’s Ryken’s Daryus Henderson for a touchdown in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s football opener. It was the winning score as the Gaels defeated the Knights, 14-10, at Pleyvak Field in Irvington to win the Brother Lambert Cup for the third straight time. (photo – Sports Majors)

by Derek Toney

After hoisting the Brother Lambert Cup with his fellow seniors Saturday afternoon, Steven Shulze gathered the rest of his Mount St. Joseph football comrades.

“I’ve won this (Lambert Cup) every year I’ve been at Mount St. Joseph and I want you guys to keep winning this when I’m gone,” Shulze said, eliciting a huge cheer.

The Lambert Cup remains in Irvington after the Gaels’ 14-10 victory over St. Mary’s Ryken at John M. Pleyvak Field. The win gives the MIAA A Conference squad a 5-2 advantage over Washington Catholic Athletic Conference school from Southern Maryland in the series dedicated to the memory of the former Mount St. Joseph student and teacher who left the Southwest Baltimore school to become the first principal of Ryken High School (now St. Mary’s Ryken) in St. Mary’s County.

Mount St. Joseph (1-0 overall) got a 27-yard touchdown catch from senior Dominic Kibby and interception from senior Charles Wilson in the final three minutes, securing its first regular season victory since a 49-7 decision over Archbishop Spalding in the 2019 finale. The Gaels went on to claim the MIAA A championship.

Last fall, Mount St. Joseph played one game in an “open season” format late last fall (MIAA member schools, at their discretion, played games but league standings were not kept) before its season was shuttered because of COVID-19 concerns.

For Shulze and his Mount St. Joseph mates, getting to start, hopefully, a normal season was the ultimate victory.

“It’s great to be back on the field playing with these guys…I can’t even describe it,” said Shulze, a 6-foot-3, 245-pound defensive end who recorded two sacks Saturday. “Missing last season was a big bummer.”

“It’s fun seeing the kids get excited about getting their uniforms, going through routines, playing games, there’s so much more spirit at the school when you have football games,” said Gaels coach Dom Damico. “The kids love playing. We told the kids to get here at 12 for a 2 o’clock game and they’re here at 10, chomping at the bit.”

Damico gathered the players inside of Smith Center, off the hot Pleyvak turf for postgame. He asked the players if they had trouble hearing through their new white helmets because of several communication breakdowns during Saturday’s contest. 

The Gaels had a laundry list of issues in their first outing. But the reigning MIAA A champs showed mettle when it mattered.

“We’ve been taught to keep our heads and keep on going,” said Wilson. “Focus on the next play, stop worrying about the last play.”

Mount St. Joseph led 7-0 late in third before St. Mary’s Ryken, courtesy of a blocked punt, got on the scoreboard with a field goal. In the fourth, the Knights got a 69-yard pass play from Brenton Toles (15-of-35, 195 yards) to Daryus Henderson, leading to Londyn Thomas’ 1-yard score on fourth-and-goal, giving them their first lead with 6 minutes, 36 seconds remaining in regulation.

The Gaels’ offense, stagnant after failing to score after first-and-goal on their first drive of the second half, put things together. Junior wideout Ronald Goodridge (three receptions, 115 yards) who got Mount St. Joseph’s first score on a pass from Winston Watkins in the first half, caught a 32-yarder on third down.

Watkins converted again on third down – a 13-yarder to Zion Williams on third-and-10. Two plays later, Watkins lofted a pass down the sidelines where Kibby captured the ball and landed inside the pylon with 2:30 left in regulation.

Watkins, starting his first varsity game, has supreme confidence in his veteran target.

“I trust Kibby as much as anybody else…we do it all the time in practice and I was happy it translated into the game,” said Watkins, who went 12-of-26 for 211 yards. “It’s always great throwing it up to him knowing he’s going to come down with it. Instead of 50-50, it’s 100-0.”

“Everything just stopped,” said Kibby (four receptions, 74 yards) of the catch. “It wasn’t slow motion, but when that ball was in the air, all I saw was the ball…We had to lock in, I told my guys it wasn’t over, we still had to make big plays.”

St. Mary’s Ryken, courtesy of a personal foul and pass interference penalty on Mount St. Joseph, advanced from its 34 to the Gaels’ 35 with 1:22 left in regulation. Wilson snagged a Toles pass across the middle for the interception, and Watkins’ third down conversion run secured the Mount St. Joseph’s sixth straight victory, dating back to 2019.

Dominic Kibby (left), sophomore quarterback Winston Watkins, and senior defenders Stephen Shulze and Charles Wilson gave up with big plays in the fourth quarter for Mount St. Joseph Saturday. The reigining MIAA A Conference champ Gaels play Ohio power St. Ignatius in Cleveland next weekend.

“A win’s a win. You’re going to have issues early…you see so many mistakes, just in the transitional part of the game, some injuries,” said Damico, who’s 2-0 as Gaels coach after a wildly successful three-decade run at McDonogh School. “We can definitely get better at those things.”

“We had realized we didn’t have it on lock,” said Shulze, whose team travels to Ohio next weekend for a match with Cleveland prep powerhouse St. Ignatius. “We all got a second wind and went 100-percent effort every single play.”

Mount St. Joseph 14, St. Mary’s Ryken 10

St. Mary’s Ryken 0 0 3 7 – 10

Mount St. Joseph 0 7 0 7 – 14

Second quarter

Mount St. Joseph – Ronald Goodridge 16 pass from Winston Watkins (Peter Lipscombe kick)

Third quarter

St. Mary’s Ryken – Andy Burke 37 field goal

Fourth quarter

St. Mary’s Ryken – Londyn Thomas 1 run (Burke kick)

Mount St. Joseph – Dom Kibby 27 pass from Watkins (Lipscombe kick)