The heavily favored Father Judge Crusaders found themselves in a battle with the Abraham Lincoln Railsplitters in the early going of their Thanksgiving battle.
Whether it was the cold and windy conditions or some strong play by Lincoln, Judge got off to a slow start.
In the the first quarter, the Crusaders committed three penalties, threw an interception and failed to gain a first down.
“When the adrenaline kicks in, it doesn’t matter,” said Judge senior quarterback Nick Rome, dismissing the weather as an excuse. “We had to adjust in the first quarter and knew we could figure it out.”
Judge figured it out in the second, third and fourth quarters. The Crusaders’ offense came alive, and their defense remained stout, and they went on to post an easy 39-0 victory at the Barfoot Bowl.
“It’s awesome,” Rome said. “It’s great to bring a win back to Judge and the neighborhood.”
Judge finished 7-4 under first-year coach Mike McKay.
“It was a successful season with a new coaching staff,” Rome said.
Rome, a backup in the first 10 games, ran for a touchdown and threw a TD pass, and was named his team’s Most Valuable Player.
“That was nice to see. He took advantage of his two opportunities,” McKay said. “We had two senior quarterbacks (Kevin Kovacs the other) who who saw a lot of time today.”
Wide receiver/defensive back/punt returner Zach “Pickles” Elliott was given Judge’s Sportsmanship Award.
Judge beat Lincoln for the 24th time in a row and leads the all-time series 35-3-1. The Railsplitters have not won since 1989.
Lincoln’s award winners were Taylor “West Philly” Gaines (MVP) and Donte Davenport (Sportsmanship), both team captains.
“They’re great kids and great students,” said Lincoln coach Ed McGettigan. “We’re going to miss them terribly.”
Gaines intercepted a pass on Judge’s first possession and ran it back 30 yards to the Crusaders’ 5. However, Lincoln did not score, missing a field goal.
On their next possession, the Railsplitters (5-7) drove to the Judge 1, but failed on fourth down.
“We were there in the first quarter. We got inside the 5 twice and couldn’t score,” McGettigan said. “We had to make the most of our opportunities. We were on their side of the field most of the first half.”
Lincoln never came close to scoring again, as Judge notched its fourth shutout.
“The defense was great all year,” Rome said. “They were ready to go.”
Judge made it 7-0 when super sophomore Yeedee Thaenrat — who was outstanding running the ball and on defense — returned a blocked punt 30 yards for a touchdown. He finished with 11 TDs on the year.
“He’s just a fantastic football player,” McKay said. “He can only get better.”
Late in the second quarter, Judge’s Matt Cunningham recovered a fumble at the Lincoln 41. Thaenrat, who topped 1,000 yards on the season, ran 35 yards to the 6. Three plays later, Rome scored from the 1, and it was 14-0 at halftime.
Judge took a 20-0 lead early in the third quarter. Matt Hartigan intercepted a pass at the Lincoln 18-yard line. Three plays later, Hartigan caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Rome.
“Matt’s a good football player,” McKay said.
Later in the quarter, Marquis Seamon ran for a 6-yard TD, his 10th score of the year, and it was 27-0.
In the fourth quarter, Connor Foley kicked a 36-yard field goal, giving him seven on the year, to make it 30-0. A safety made it 32-0, and Tim McMonagle ran for a 1-yard touchdown for the final points.
The final 7:08 was played with a running clock due to the 35-point mercy rule.
Judge limited Lincoln to six first downs and 67 yards of total offense.
“The defense has been our strength all year long, and they set the tone in the first quarter,” McKay said. “The front seven carried us in a lot of games.”
Judge will lose some key seniors, including about 10 whom McKay can see contributing to a college program.
Meanwhile, Lincoln will welcome back standouts such as Hosea McClam, Teddy Tootle and Yusef Robertson, but will say goodbye to 17 seniors.
“We had a good senior class,” McGettigan said. “We had a lot of three-year players who will be hard to replace.” ••