OLNEY — Mount St. Joseph started this season out with a nail-biting loss against St. Mary’s Ryken on the road. With another opportunity against a ranked team in the state on the road Friday night, the Gaels jumped all over the Falcons to take a two-score lead by the end of the first quarter.
The fast start proved to be enough as the No. 23 Gaels forced three second-half turnovers to seal the deal and a 26-14 win over No. 10 Good Counsel on Friday night.
“We had to jump out to an early lead if we wanted a good shot at beating a good team” MSJ coach Rich Holzer said. “It’s huge for the young guy’s confidence. Older guys can kind of weather storm but our guys play older than they are.”
Mount St. Joseph clicked on all assets of the game early in the first half. The defense held strong, forcing the Falcons into a three-and-out, which was followed up by a 62-yard touchdown run by Marlow Wax (158 first-half yards), giving the early momentum to the Gaels, 7-0.
“We wanted to step on the gas, get ahead early, and win the game. That’s all we wanted to do,” said Wax, the sophomore running back after tallying 223 yards on 30 carries.
Late in the third, the Gaels sacked Falcons quarterback Cameron Snell on a fourth down conversion attempt, which proved to be a turning point in the game as both offenses were struggling, but the Gaels were able to find a little rhythm before converting the opportunity to points.
“Coach told us to keep our foot on the gas, no turnovers, no mistakes just score,” Wax said, explaining the mentality of the team during the drive.
This was apparent with zero turnovers, limited penalties and a freshman quarterback in Billy Atkins who went 11-for-25 for 110 yards, and most importantly, three touchdown passes with no interceptions. The screen game was open for much of the contest because of the dangerous running attack Wax posed for the defense. Two of the three touchdown passes by Atkins came off screens, as the pitch and catch was effective near the redzone.
The Falcons didn’t help their cause with multiple mistakes of penalties and turnovers. They coughed up the ball twice inside their own territory and an interception thrown by Snell while they were driving the ball in the Gaels territory in the fourth quarter that put the game away. A blocked field goal, however, put the Falcons in business at the Gaels 20-yard line with two minutes left.
After the blocked kick Holzer rallied his team and said, “Calm down. I got confidence in you and let’s get this stop.”
And once again the defense proved to be discipline and forced a turnover on downs to seal the win.
“It puts us back on track,” Holzer said. “There are a lot of freshman and sophomores playing out there. It puts them in a good frame of mind and shows that they’re able to come out and perform.”