SPRING HILL — In arguably the most important game that St. Ed’s has played in recent years, the Pirates came through big time – romping past Bishop McLaughlin 42-12 Friday night in Spring Hill.
Both teams entered the contest without a blemish on their records in the South Division of the Sunshine State Athletic Conference. For the Pirates (7-0 overall, 5-0 in the conference), the win guaranteed a playoff berth and the probable inside track to the SSAC championship game next month. Keep that to yourselves, though. Head Coach Bill Motta will not contemplate thinking that far ahead. A strict no-nonsense, one-game-at-a-time approach has allowed his guys to eliminate distractions and remain focused on the task at hand. That would be the next opponent, and nothing beyond.
Motta expressed some concern heading into this crucial game. Analyzing the upcoming encounter, he anticipated that “it will be very tough. They are very well coached and have two weeks to prepare. They are undefeated in the division, as we are. We have to drive four hours to get them (for homecoming, no less) on a day off. Everything is stacked in their favor.”
The Pirates were barely off the bus when the Hurricanes Jordan Betancourt hit them with a 94-yard kickoff return for a 6-0 edge to start the game.
Cortez Brown single handedly righted the ship immediately for St. Ed’s. He darted 58 yards on the Pirates first snap from scrimmage. Two carries later, Brown found the end zone from one yard out. The touchdown and Dillon Benson’s PAT put the Pirates ahead 7-6.
Benson would convert six-for-six extra points on the night to run his flawless streak to 38 on the season.
Jamari Williams extended the lead to 14-6 with another short yardage score as the first quarter came to an end.
A 64-yard Collier Proctor to J.D. McGee pass completion set the stage for a second quarter touchdown run by Williams, this one from seven yards out.
Bishop McLaughlin kept the game from getting out-of-hand by closing out the first half with a rushing touchdown of their own. However, after Christian Nummy went in from the 20, the Hurricanes failed on another extra point try. That left the score 21-12 in favor of St. Ed’s at the half.
The second half was all St. Ed’s. Brown rushed for two more scores – one each in the third and fourth quarters – giving him a total of three for the game. All six Pirate touchdowns came via the ground game. McGee’s short run to pay dirt put a finishing touch on the 30 point victory with time winding down in the fourth.
Still, Motta was not assured of anything until he started to insert backups with four minutes to go before the final gun.
“I never felt like the game was in the bag,” he said.
The game plan devised by the coaching staff worked to near perfection.
“We relied on the running game and defensively we controlled their option,” Motta said. “We blocked well, had good protection (for quarterback Proctor) and the line opened up some nice holes for our running backs. We won the game up front, on both sides of the ball.”
Motta praised the mental and physical toughness he saw on the field.
“I thought we were evenly match physically, but our guys played four quarters of good, hard football,” Motta said. “Cortez (running back – Brown) was an outstanding example. He just kept going after he was hit and had a lot of yards-after-contact .”
Being undefeated falls in the afterthought category for Motta.
“Winning a game and securing a playoff berth was our goal coming in,” he said. “The guys are amazing about staying focused and eliminating distractions. It’s difficult at times with more important academic considerations like grades and exams on their minds. We just try to concentrate on the next opponent.”
That would be another road trip to face Lighthouse Christian Academy next Friday night.