The Father Judge Crusaders started the football season by flying to Ireland for a Labor Day weekend game and ended it by walking back to school along Rowland Avenue after an overwhelming victory over Abraham Lincoln on Thanksgiving.
Dennis Boice rushed for 93 yards and three touchdowns to help Judge shut out Lincoln, 41-0.
The Crusaders finished 3-6 against a tough schedule, battling injuries along the way.
“Injuries hurt us. We had a lot of key players go down. But we’re happy to finish the way we did,” Boice said.
Boice, a senior strong safety and running back, was named Judge’s Most Valuable Player.
His teammate and fellow resident of Cresco Avenue, Albi Arapaj, earned the team’s Sportsmanship Award. A senior tight end, Arapaj caught a touchdown pass, breaking a tackle en route to a 53-yard score. He finished with three catches for 96 yards.
“We’re happy. We took a couple of lumps during the season, but we were confident coming in. We ended it the right way, and that’s all that matters,” Arapaj said.
The Lincoln winners were Khalil “Duke” Walker (MVP) and Andrew Gallagher (Sportsmanship).
Judge leads the series 34-3-1, including 23 consecutive wins.
Head coach Tom Coyle credited his team with persevering during a season that included a one-point overtime loss to archrival Archbishop Ryan that kept the Crusaders out of the playoffs.
“That’s what makes us a good football team, our stick-to-it-iveness,” he said. “We played mistake-free football today. To score forty-one points in a half is not an easy task.”
Lincoln (4-8), which allowed 375 yards rushing and gained just 22 of its own, hasn’t beaten the Crusaders since 1989.
“Their running game killed us,” said head coach Ed McGettigan.
The game was competitive for the first quarter, when Boice’s 1-yard run and a Brandon Spatz two-point conversion run made it 8-0.
Judge, though, exploded for five touchdowns in the second quarter. Spatz rushed for a 20-yard TD out of the Wildcat formation. Boice ran for scores of 72 and 1 yards. Quarterback Ryan Mackiewicz threw scoring passes of 18 yards to Max Pascavitch and 53 yards to Arapaj.
All of a sudden, it was 41-0 at halftime. The 35-point mercy rule was in effect in the second half, meaning the clock ran continually.
Judge finished with 501 yards of total offense and pitched a shutout on defense. Spatz, Isaac Outland, Joe Nigro, Sean Fitzgerald and Steve Brooks all made interceptions.
“We really wanted the shutout. Toward the end of the season, our defense came together. Today, we shut them down,” Boice said.
Boice had a 23-yard punt return in the second quarter that set up a score. He appeared to have his fourth touchdown of the game early in the third quarter when he ripped the ball out of a Lincoln receiver’s hands and began running all alone to the end zone, but the officials blew the play dead.
Judge sophomore running back Samir Bullock gained 170 yards on 14 carries. He finished the year with 1,086 yards.
The Crusaders’ primary runner was supposed to be Marquis Seamon, but he broke his wrist in Ireland.
“Samir had a thousand yards in a nine-game season. That’s commendable,” Coyle said. “And Dennis is a very good back. He stepped up and helped mentor Samir.”
Mackiewicz finished a perfect 5-for-5 for 126 yards and the two touchdowns. He finished the year with 938 yards passing, eight touchdown tosses and four rushing TDs. He separated his shoulder four months earlier, and Coyle credited assistant Mike Samuel with getting him ready to play.
Coyle was happy with the effort of his revamped offensive line, adding that assistant Casey Jones did a good job replacing injured players.
Lincoln’s Miguel Sanchez passed for 120 yards. His favorite target was Devon Thompkins, who caught five balls for 41 yards.
The five turnovers didn’t help.
“We had to play mistake free if we wanted to have a chance, and we didn’t,” said McGettigan, a Judge graduate. “They executed. We didn’t.”
Walker, Sanchez, Gallagher, Giovanni Johnson and John Lewis are among the Lincoln seniors who will be missed. Key returnees will include Thompkins, Cody Kettyle, Donte Davenport and Zian Padgett.
McGettigan likes the tradition of the Thanksgiving game and the big crowd that shows up every year. He’d like to see the Railsplitters move into the upper echelon of Public League programs and be more competitive against the Crusaders.
“They’re more committed to the weight room. We have to make that commitment,” he said. “We have to hit the weight room. We have to start right now. No time off. Start before Christmas.” ••
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or firstname.lastname@example.org