Off and running

Ry­an run­ning back Samir Bul­lock, a trans­fer from rival school Fath­er Judge, ran wild in the Raid­ers' sea­son-open­ing vic­tory in Ocean City.

  • Job well done: Ryan head coach Frank McArdle talks with his team after its convincing 37-20 win over Cardinal O’Hara. ED MORRONE / TIMES PHOTO

  • Ryan senior linebacker Jesse Wireman gets congratulated after his fourth quarter INT for a touchdown. Wireman had two interceptions on the day. ED MORRONE / TIMES PHOTO

  • Strong start: Bullock (middle), his teammates and coaches were all smiles after the running back’s record-setting day. It was Ryan’s first season-opening win in Ocean City under head coach Frank McArdle in five seasons. ED MORRONE / TIMES PHOTO

  • Strong start: Samir Bullock (middle) gets congratulations from teammates in the midst of rushing for 345 yards, which shattered the single-game record in Bullock’s first game as a Raider. ED MORRONE / TIMES PHOTO

  • Strong start: Ryan beat O’Hara, 37-20, in the opener in Ocean City. ED MORRONE / TIMES PHOTO

OCEAN CITY, N.J. — As far as first im­pres­sions go, Samir Bul­lock left little to the ima­gin­a­tion. 

In his first game as a mem­ber of the Arch­bish­op Ry­an foot­ball team after trans­fer­ring from Fath­er Judge, Bul­lock didn’t just break the single-game school rush­ing re­cord in his first try … he flat out ob­lit­er­ated it.

Bul­lock used touch­down runs of 73, 67 and 27 yards on his way to 345 rush­ing yards in Ry­an’s 37-20 sea­son-open­ing vic­tory over Car­din­al O’Hara, put­ting on a show for the ages on a field just a stone’s throw from the Ocean City board­walk.

This time, after com­ing oh so close the pre­vi­ous two years, Ry­an fi­nally left its an­nu­al sea­son-open­ing tilt against O’Hara with an em­phat­ic, coveted vic­tory.

“It felt great, but I’m not a per­son who just thinks about him­self,” said Bul­lock, who ac­coun­ted for 345 of Ry­an’s 346 yards from scrim­mage, or 99.7 per­cent of the team’s of­fense. “I have to give all the cred­it to my of­fens­ive line. I came to this team as a new guy and they all ex­ten­ded a hand to wel­come me. They told me they had my back and that they were go­ing to block their butts off for me. All I had to do was run the ball.”

Bul­lock did just that. After O’Hara took a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter, Bul­lock re­spon­ded two plays later by run­ning straight up the gut for a 73-yard score. After Ry­an forced a punt, Bul­lock again broke a long run on the drive’s second play, this time find­ing a crease on the out­side be­fore ra­cing down the Raid­er side­line for 67 more yards to put his team up 15-7. With 4:51 still re­main­ing in the first quarter, Bul­lock had car­ried the ball five times for 156 yards. 

And he was just get­ting star­ted, too.

When he was all fin­ished, Bul­lock’s 345 rush­ing yards were 97 more than the pre­vi­ous school re­cord of 248, set by Mike Er­brick back in 1990. And des­pite his re­cord-set­ting day, the genu­inely self­less Bul­lock still main­tained he could have a bet­ter show­ing if not for two lost fumbles that could have seen his yard­age and touch­down fig­ures soar even high­er.

“He’s such a humble, nice kid,” said Raid­ers coach Frank McArdle, who won his first sea­son open­er in five years in charge. “After the game when he found out he broke the re­cord, lit­er­ally the first thing he said was how great of a job his of­fens­ive line did. Most people would get ex­cited about them­selves and what they just did, but the first thing he wanted to do was cred­it his team­mates. Words can’t de­scribe how im­pressed I am with him.”

McArdle and the rest of the Ry­an pro­gram knew the ju­ni­or speed­ster had tal­ent; they saw it firsthand in 2012 when Bul­lock lit them up for 190 yards on 20 car­ries. As a sopho­more at Judge in filling in for the in­jured Mar­quis Sea­mon, Bul­lock racked up 1,086 yards on 150 rushes, good for 7.24 yards a carry. On Sat­urday, with the Ocean City fer­ris wheel tower­ing over Carey Sta­di­um, Bul­lock man­aged nearly 13 yards a carry, but he wasn’t com­pletely sat­is­fied.

“I had a good game, but it could have been bet­ter, es­pe­cially with those two fumbles,” he said. “Now that be­comes my prob­lem to work on. In any oth­er situ­ation those might have cost us the game, so that’s on my shoulders. I want to get back on top and learn from those mis­takes.”

On the rare oc­ca­sion that Bul­lock made a mis­take, his de­fense was there to have his back, pick­ing off O’Hara quar­ter­back Dashawn Darden three times. Two of the three picks came from seni­or line­back­er and cap­tain Jesse Wire­man, in­clud­ing a 20-yard re­turn for a touch­down with 5:40 to go in the fourth quarter, giv­ing Ry­an a 30-14 lead and es­sen­tially put­ting the game out of reach. 

While Bul­lock is the new kid on the block, Wire­man is a wily vet­er­an who has star­ted for three sea­sons. Wire­man ar­rived just as the once strug­gling pro­gram began to turn it­self around, go­ing from two wins his fresh­man year to five in 2011 to six last sea­son. Now, the dark days seem to have passed, and Wire­man main­tains that all the hard work when Ry­an was los­ing is fi­nally pay­ing di­vidends. 

“We knew as soon as last year ended that we would be good,” Wire­man said. “We worked for it. We came to­geth­er as a fam­ily with the goal of put­ting Ry­an foot­ball back on the map. As long as the seni­ors stay to­geth­er and con­tin­ue to work our tails off, there’s no reas­on why the stars won’t align for us to have a real chance to win the Cath­ol­ic League.”

Sea­son goals aside, how en­thralled did that pick-six make Wire­man feel?

“That mo­ment when I scored…,” he said while ex­hal­ing in an at­tempt to find the words. “It was just pure ec­stasy.”

And while Ry­an knows that one win in a sea­son full of tough con­tests won’t be enough to al­low the team to reach its goal of win­ning the pro­gram’s first league title since 1994, it’s cer­tainly a start. The pro­gram that lost to O’Hara 56-0 five sea­sons ago seems re­born to the point where the scars of a 20-game los­ing streak feel like an­cient his­tory.

“It shows that we’ve come a long way,” said McArdle, a former Raid­er him­self back in the ‘90s. “O’Hara has a very good team to the point where a lot of people con­sidered this an up­set. To us, it wasn’t. We had come close the last two years, so for me it was an ‘It’s about time’ mo­ment. It’s a great feel­ing.”

On this day, noth­ing could stop the Raid­ers from grabbing that coveted vic­tory, not Bul­lock’s two fumbles on an oth­er­wise flaw­less day nor a 99-yard O’Hara scor­ing drive right be­fore half­time that cut the lead to 22-14. For a fiercely de­term­ined vet­er­an group, they left Ocean City hop­ing — and be­liev­ing — that this one would be one of many in what has the po­ten­tial to be­come a truly spe­cial sea­son if the chips fall in Ry­an’s fa­vor.

“It feels great, and I knew all along we were cap­able of this,” Bul­lock said. “We turned it up and took it to the next level, but we’re still not the best team we can be. We have room for im­prove­ment. We came here to play foot­ball and to win a game against a really good team, and that’s ex­actly what we did.” ••

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