The game plan for Father Judge High School was to run the ball against Abraham Lincoln in last week’s Thanksgiving Day football matchup.
“We never underestimate an opponent, but we were confident our offensive line would block well,” said Judge senior running back Matt Smalley.
The game plan worked perfectly.
The line blocked well, and Smalley and the other ball carriers gained big yardage.
Smalley was the feature back, carrying 11 times for 156 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Crusaders to an easy 48-7 victory over the Railsplitters at the Barfoot Bowl.
“Our offensive line and fullback Raul Quinones did a great job opening holes,” Smalley said.
The only thing that slowed down Smalley all day was an ankle injury late in the third quarter. By then, the rout was on, but Smalley will be transitioning soon to track and field, where he is a standout sprinter and jumper. He had ice on his left ankle after the game.
“I’ll be fine,” he said.
Father Judge won for the 22nd time in a row on Thanksgiving and leads the all-time series 33-3-1.
“It was very important to win. It’s tradition. We haven’t lost since ’89,” Smalley said.
The officials even got into the tradition.
Referee Ernie Gallagher and his crew wore hats reflecting their alma maters — four Father Judge graduates, two Lincoln and one from West Catholic.
Smalley and Lincoln’s Marquise “Marty” McFarland won the Most Valuable Player trophies for their teams. Sportsmanship plaques went to Judge’s Ian McGinnis and Lincoln’s Michael Johnson.
Judge, which finished the season 7-4, stormed to a 20-0 lead in the first quarter on two touchdown runs by Smalley and one by Quinones.
The score could have been worse, but Lincoln’s James Baldere made an interception at the goal line.
The second quarter was a different story, however, as Judge committed a couple of personal fouls and turned the ball over on an ugly fake punt.
Lincoln (7-5) scored on a 23-yard screen pass from Miguel Sanchez to McFarland. The Railsplitters had success with the screen a few times.
“It’s been very good to us all year, especially with Marty McFarland,” said Abraham Lincoln coach Ed McGettigan. “He’s a nice player. We’re going to miss him.”
Lincoln was driving for another score late in the first half, but Judge’s Brad Burgoon recovered a fumbled at the 13-yard line.
“We had some concern,” said Father Judge boss Tom Coyle. “They were driving to make it 20-14. It was 20-7 at halftime, and they got the ball at the start of the second half.”
The third quarter was Lincoln’s downfall. In four possessions, the Railsplitters fumbled three times and threw an interception.
Smalley ran for two touchdowns to make it 34-7.
Quinones and Dennis Boice ran for touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Boice scored with 2:40 remaining, and the clock ran continuously the rest of the game because of the 35-point mercy rule.
Coyle credited the offensive line with opening holes, adding that Smalley has the speed to get outside and the ability to cut back inside. The coach was also pleased with the running of Quinones and underclassmen Boice and Marquis Seamon.
Judge recorded three sacks, two by Eric Condron and one by Shawn Hartigan. Connor Donohoe intercepted a pass. The Crusaders limited Lincoln’s ball carriers to 14 yards rushing.
“Our linebackers made plays, and our defensive line did a great job, too, getting them in the backfield,” said Smalley, who plays defensive back.
Smalley finished the season with an impressive 21 touchdowns, including 17 on the ground. Quinones finished with 16 touchdowns, 12 of which were rushing scores.
Lincoln did a nice job of shutting down Judge’s passing attack, but quarterback Rob Daniels did pass the 1,500-yard mark for the year.
Lincoln finished with seven turnovers, including six fumbles.
“We made too many mistakes,” McGettigan said. “When we turn the ball over that many times, we can’t compete with them. I thought we had the right schemes, but we were shooting ourselves in the foot.”
McGettigan, who was joined on the sideline by former coach Gene Kelly, said Judge’s offensive line was too big and strong, noting that the Judge runners scored largely untouched. The turnovers gave the Crusaders great field position.
Lincoln, which qualified for the Public League playoffs, will lose 22 seniors. Sanchez, who passed for more than 1,100 yards, will be among the returnees. McGettigan wants his players in the weight room by January.
The final score was lopsided, but the game was close for a while.
ldquo;I thought we looked pretty good,” Coyle said. “We jumped on them early. We had a hiccup in the second quarter. We played much better in the second half. I give Ed and his staff a lot of credit. They have a good football team. No. 2 (Joshua McClam) and 25 (McFarland) are good players.”
Judge, whose four losses came against very good competition, will lose 24 seniors.
“Those guys did an outstanding job for us and will be hard to replace,” Coyle said.
An exciting off-season begins for the Crusaders. Father Judge will open the 2012 season on Friday night of Labor Day weekend against Notre Dame Prep (Ariz.) in Dublin, Ireland. The University of Notre Dame will face Navy the next day. ••
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or firstname.lastname@example.org