High school football was played in Washington County Friday night.
In the stands, at least, things were noticably different as St. Joseph Catholic School fans all wore masks and tried to socially distance as best they could.
But, on the field, it was the same old story. While many of their names on the back of the jerseys are new, the Fighting Irish players played like a team more than capable of continuing the program’s dynasty in their 50-20 dominating victory over Class 5A Adams County Christian School.
St. Joseph’s quest for a four-peat state championship this season is definitely for real. The program’s state-best winning streak has now reached 25 games.
After a back-and-forth opening two quarters, the Fighting Irish, a Class 3A school, outslugged and outhustled their bigger opponents for a convincing run-away win in the second two quarters.
The tone for the second half was, perhaps, set on the final play of the second quarter. After Adams Christian had just drove down the field to score with seven seconds until the half to put the Rebels up 14-13, a misplayed Adams onside kick allowed the Irish to get the ball back in great field position.
Then, with just two seconds on the clock, St. Joseph quarterback Mekhi Norris connected with senior receiver A.J. McCloud on a 35-yard touchdown pass. Norris’ pass was first tipped by an Adams’ defender before falling safely into McCloud’s arms in the corner of the endzone.
“That play was huge for us,” St. Joseph Coach John Baker said. “I think that our kids saw them hang their heads after that play and then we sort of saw blood in the water. I am shocked by the turnaround in the second half, because we beat a really good, really physical football team.”
St. Joe’s onslaught in the second half began on the Irish’s second possession of the third quarter. Norris connected with Irish receivers on five straight passes to get St. Joseph into the endzone. Then, after retrieving a high snap, he bulldozed his way 15 yards to set up his one-yard TD run a few plays later.
“This is our first game, so of course we had some bumps in the first half, but we showed tonight that we are definitely capable of winning another state championship. We definitely have the heart for it,” Norris said.
Two, crafty onside kicks by St. Joseph kicker Frank Serio set up two more Irish touchdowns in the second half.
Serio’s first onside kick was recovered by Jerrian King and led to a nine-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Kaleb Lockett to put St. Joe up 36-14.
“I have been playing soccer all my life so I have had lots of practice at it,” Serio said. “The trick is to kick the top of the ball hard and that is what makes it have lots of spin.”
Sophomore Kye Nelson, who coach Baker singled out as “playing a really great game,” scored St. Joseph’s next touchdown on a 17-yard run. Even more excitement happened on the St. Joseph two-point conversion attempt after Nelson’s run.
Jordan Jennings, the team’s holder ran after a snap that got away from him. Jennings kept his cool, however, and picked up the ball and launched the ball towards the endzone to find an open Gregory Fore.
The Irish scored the first points in the game when King recovered a fumble and returned it for a 53-yard score. In the second quarter, Norris scored St. Joe’s second touchdown in the game on a 5-yard run to put the Irish up 13-8.