As the featured back in Mount St. Joseph’s pass-first spread offense, Sam James said “sometimes you just got to sit back and wait until they call you number.” The Gaels dialed James Saturday and he didn’t disappoint.

No. 3 Mount St. Joseph defeated ninth-ranked Calvert Hall College, 17-7, in a MIAA A Conference football contest in front of nearly 1,200 at Pleyvak Field in Irvington. James rushed for 210 yards and a touchdown for the Gaels (7-1 overall), and senior quarterback Christian Carter added a short run.

The west Baltimore school used a heavy dose of James and solid defense, improving to 3-0 in the area’s toughest league. The Gaels, top-ranked Archbishop Spalding (3-0) and No. 2 St. Frances Academy (4-0) are perfect through four weeks.

With windy conditions slowing its passing attack, Mount St. Joseph put the ball in James’ hands 33 times. He bounced off tackles, carried several piles and was elusive in the open field. 

“When Sam gets going we called it ‘Beast Mode,'” said Gaels coach Rich Holzer. “There’s no stopping the kid. One kid isn’t going to bring him down. He’s one of the strongest running backs I’ve ever been around.”

James, whose late father, Sam Sr., was a star linebacker at Lake Clifton in the late eighties and Slippery Rock University in the early 1990s, credited his offensive line of Kyle Hunter, Anthony Ruffin, Michael Corbi, Evan Chavous and freshman Patrick Fitzmaurice.

“Our line is the best in the MIAA A. They got me my yards,” said James, 5-foot-9 and 210 pounds. “Coach had to adjust to the wind.”

After averaging 44.5 points, Mount St. Joseph produced just 40 yards in its first three possessions. On their next offensive series, after crossing into Calvert Hall’s territory, the Gaels turned to James.

James rushed for 40 yards as Ben Austin connected on a 19-yard field goal for a 3-0 advantage early in the second. It took just two plays for Calvert Hall (5-3, 1-2 MIAA A) to answer.

Quarterback Emmett Avery threw a quick pass to Kam Brooks behind the line of scrimmage. Brooks fired a pass downfield to a wide open Chris Cooper, who streak down the sidelines for a 72-yard touchdown.

The Gaels responded with a 12-play, 85-yard drive as James found the end zone from 2 yards. The play before, James shedded several tackles for a 28-yard gain.

“Unbelievable physical strength,” said Holzer. “When he runs angry, you better watch out.”

Mount St. Joseph, which passed for just 139 yards Saturday, was able to produce a 41-yard pass play from Carter (14 of 30 passing) to Gary Agurs. Carter capped a 80-yard drive with a 1-yard sneak with 5:34 left in regulation, giving the Gaels a two-score lead.

Mount St. Joseph’s unheralded defense allowed 135 yards, outside of the Cardinals’ 72-yard option pass score. Senior Ahmad McCullough recorded two sacks, Ikenna Obi had one and Ben Morgan and Bailey Toth combined for another sack. Darren Dunmoodie had an interception.

“Everybody sees how profilic their offense is, but their defense is pretty good,” said Calvert Hall coach Donald Davis. “Their guys made plays. They didn’t get a lot of broken tackles and they defeated blocks.”

Holzer commended the Cardinals for keeping Mount St. Joseph’s passing attack grounded. He was concerned the Gaels would overlook The Hall, but despite not playing its A-game, Mount St. Joseph is ready for the stretch run for the MIAA A title.

“We’re clicking now,” said James, whose team will take a 7-game winning streak to No. 5 McDonogh School, Friday night in Owings Mills. “You got to watch out for us.” 

No. 3 Mount St. Joseph 17, No. 9 Calvert Hall College 7

Calvert Hall 0 7 0 0 – 7

Mount St. Joseph 0 10 0 7 – 17

Second quarter

Mount St. Joseph – Ben Austin 19 field goal

Calvert Hall – Chris Cooper 72 pass from Kam Brooks (Jeffrey Kordenbrock kick)

Mount St. Joseph – Sam James 2 run (Austin kick)

Fourth quarter

Mount St. Joseph – Christian Carter 1 run (Austin kick)