Deep down, Tom Bayer knew there was a very good chance that he would be named a team captain.
But as he has done throughout his young life, the Father Judge High School senior two-way lineman refused to consider the matter a done deal.
“I never want to take something for granted,” Bayer said. “I don’t look too far ahead. I kind of saw it coming, but I feel more comfortable taking things one at a time instead of assuming anything.”
It was that type of maturity that led Judge’s coaching staff to choose Bayer and senior teammates Joe Nigro (linebacker) and Marquis Seamon (running back/defensive back) as this year’s captains. When told of the honor about three practices into the season, Bayer was “incredibly excited.”
“Hearing it, even though I do think of myself as a leader, was still a surprise,” he said. “It is a really big honor.”
On Saturday night at Northeast High School, Bayer and his teammates played inspired football. Their 31-0 victory over Bucks County’s Council Rock South was thorough from the opening snap, particularly in the second half.
Receiving his first victory was first-year coach Mike McKay. He deflected his own plaudits by extolling the efforts of his coaches and players.
“I was hoping it would have come the week before, but of course it is still special,” said McKay, a 1976 Judge grad who quarterbacked the Crusaders to the 1975 Catholic League and city championships under legendary coach Whitey Sullivan. “I was certainly looking forward to it.”
At center, Bayer anchors an offensive line that has helped the Crusaders amass 460 yards in two games. Aided by tackles Kevin Lang and Tim Breslin, guards Dan Sipps and Jeff Mills, and ends Jim Galasso and Matt Cunningham, the Crusaders gained 303 yards on 24 carries against Council Rock South.
In an opening-week 30-22 loss to Episcopal Academy, Seamon contributed 139 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. Versus Council Rock South, sophomore Yeedee Thaenrat did even better, finishing with 216 yards and two touchdowns on only eight carries.
A two-way starter since his junior year, the 6-foot, 235-pound Bayer summarized run blocking as an offensive lineman’s dream.
“You don’t have to worry about anything,” Bayer said. “You just go out there and knock people on their butts.”
The same strategy was utilized against Council Rock South. Frustrated by their inability to sustain consistent yardage on the ground, the Golden Hawks (0-2) were able to develop some momentum through the air via their wishbone offense that Father Judge had practiced to counter throughout the preceding week.
However, whenever the Golden Hawks moved inside Judge’s territory, the Crusaders tightened their grip. They turned a 7-0 halftime lead into a rout behind three long touchdown runs of 63, 51 and 61 yards — the first two by Thaenrat and the third by Seamon (12 carries, 74 yards) — as well as a 26-yard field goal by Connor Foley.
Despite playing without an injured Nigro, the Crusaders won by shutout for the second time in three games; they had defeated Lincoln, 41-0, in last fall’s Thanksgiving Day season finale. They have now blanked opponents in 10 of the last 12 quarters, and six straight.
Joining ends Cunningham and Jowell Agyedu, linebackers Shawn Scornaienchi, Tim McMonagle and Galasso, Bayer and fellow tackle Eric Drains helped lead the charge defensively as well. Against a secondary primarily manned by Matt Hartigan, Prince Smith, Thaenrat and Seamon, Council Rock South gained what proved to be insignificant yardage.
“We got caught a couple of times with play-action passes, but I thought we did a great job stopping their run game, particularly with our guys up front,” McKay said.
Winning by shutout might not have been the goal from the outset, but by the time the fourth quarter began, Judge’s sideline sensed what was occurring.
“It was hard not to be a part of things, but I was really proud of my teammates,” said Nigro, who sprained his knee against Martin Luther King in the second scrimmage of the season, but should be back in action in a week or two. “They played great. They were aggressive on their blocks and they didn’t let anyone penetrate the line. Everyone contributed, and that’s the best way to win a football game.”
Up next for Judge is Northeast, which is coming off a tough 15-13 loss to Council Rock North. Bayer said he understands that the Vikings are 0-2, but he is preparing for a tough battle regardless.
And if he notices any type of overconfidence from any teammates because of such a lopsided triumph, Bayer will sternly remind them to forget about the past and focus on the present. He did the same thing after the season-opening, hard-fought loss to Episcopal in which the Crusaders, once trailing 30-3 at halftime, had a chance to force overtime but were unable to find the end zone in the game’s final minutes.
After all, being supportively vocal while showing how it’s done on and off the field is what being a team captain is all about. ••