In the huddle following Mount St. Joseph’s 23-21 loss to Good Counsel Saturday afternoon, Gaels coach Rich Holzer didn’t minced words.
“The time for tolerating mistakes are over,” said Holzer.
After months of offseason conditioning, 7-on-7 summer competitions and several preseason scrimmages, Holzer and the Gaels believe they’re ready to challenge for the MIAA A Conference title. There’s little margin for error.
Against arguably the state’s best team in front of a huge audience on Hall of Fame Day audience at Pleyvak Field, Mount St. Joseph let an opportunity slip away. Literally.
Ibraheim Mohammed rushed for 140 yards for Good Counsel, whose coach Bob Milloy claimed his 400th career victory. Senior quarterback Travis Nannen threw a pair of scores.
Mount St. Joseph was in position to delay Milloy’s milestone, but was unable to recover from several mistakes. Senior quarterback Christian Carter threw for 335 yards and a touchdown for the Gaels (0-1), and Sam James added two rushing scores.
The Gaels were driving for the go ahead score late in regulation, but an errant snap was recovered by the Montgomery County powerhouse, ranked No. 2 in the state media preseason Top 25 poll. After a promising start, Mount St. Joseph allowed 23 unanswered points and turned the ball over three times.
“It was a repeat of our last scrimmage, we drive the ball down the field and get into the end zone then we turned it over or make a mistake. You can recover in scrimmages and against teams not as talented as Good Counsel,” said Holzer. “They [Good Counsel] had opportunity and pounced on it. Two points…that’s a tough pill to swallow.”
Mount St. Joseph held Good Counsel and its slew of Division I recruits scoreless in the second half. The Gaels’ offense pressured the Falcons’ defense for most of the final two quarters.
“That’s a good team. They were tough to stop,” said Milloy, who has led the Falcons to four Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championships in 13 seasons after winning a record 8 public state titles during a 33-year stint at Montgomery County public programs Whitman, Springbrook and Sherwood. “We were fortunate to get past them.”
Mount St. Joseph’s no-huddle attack was impressive in its initial possession of 2016 after a game-opening three-and-out by its defense. The Gaels went 82 yards in 10 plays as James scored from a yard.
Mount St. Joseph didn’t get another 1st down – not courtesy of a penalty – until late in the first half.
“They came out in new defensive sets and kind of confused our guys a little bit,” said Holzer.
The Falcons and their big offensive line started controlling the Gaels’ defense, scoring on 4 of 5 possessions to claim a 23-7 halftime cushion. Nannen threw a 24-yard score to Josh Kelly on 4th down, and found tight end Josh Paschal open down the middle for a 44-yard catch and run. Mohammed had a four-yard touchdown run.
After losing possession because of a bad snap, Mount St. Joseph’s offense reverted back to its opening quarter efficiency. Carter (33-of-57) connected with junior Matthew McDonald (8 catches for 59 yards) from 10 yards late in the third.
The Gaels got the 2-point conversion as James got a lateral from Gary Agurs off a quick pass in the flat from Carter. James (48 yards) capped a 7-play, 47-yard drive with a 13-yard scamper down the sidelines, bringing Mount St. Joseph to 23-21 with 4:53 left in regulation.
“We went back to basics and executed,” said Holzer, whose team failed to get tying the 2-point conversion following James’ touchdown run.
The Gaels regained possession at their 29 with 2:56 remaining. Highlighted by Carter’s 40-yard pass to Agurs (5 catches for 54 yards), Mount St. Joseph reached the Falcons’ 19. On 4th-and-1, the snap went high over Carter’s head and Jalen Green fell on the ball for Good Counsel.
“If we had gotten that play off and they had made a great play, I could live with that. The way it ended was very frustrating,” said Holzer. “Fumbled exchanges — we didn’t have one all last year and now we had two in one game, so that’s going to get fixed ASAP.”
Despite missing a chance at a second signature victory (defeated then-defending MIAA A champ McDonogh School last year) in as many seasons, Holzer believes the Gaels have a high ceiling. Mount St. Joseph has only 12 seniors on its roster.
“They [Good Counsel] got a bunch of D1 recruits out there, our kids are all sophomores and freshman with a few juniors and a few seniors,” said Holzer, whose team is ranked 14th in the state media preseason Top 25. “They stepped up, play hard and didn’t back down from the challenge.”
“It’s clear we’re not willing to quit. In the past, people has looked at St. Joe as soft team,” Gaels senior linebacker Aaron Johnson said. “We just stepped up to a giant and laid it down.”
Good Counsel 23, No. 5 Mount St. Joseph 21
Good Counsel 9 14 0 0 – 23
Mount St. Joseph 7 0 8 6 – 21
Mount St. Joseph – James 1 run (Austin kick)
Good Counsel – Mitchell 23 field goal
Good Counsel – Kelly 24 pass from Nannen (kick failed)
Good Counsel – Ibrahim 4 run (Mitchell kick)
Good Counsel – Paschal 44 pass from Nannen (Mitchell kick)
Mount St. Joseph – McDonald 10 pass from Carter (James run)
Mount St. Joseph – James 13 run (run failed)
Mount St. Joseph honored its 2016 Athletic Hall of Fame Class before kickoff Saturday. The newest inductees are Eric Atkins (Class of 2010; basketball and football); Erick Baxter (1985; track, tennis and cross country); Steve Clevenger (2004; baseball); Kyle Fuller (2010; football and indoor track); Mack Lewnes (2006; wrestling); Jason Schaufele (wrestling); Ryan Shea (2008; swimming and water polo); Henry Sims (basketball) and former ice hockey coach Erwin Terwillliger.