With a yard to go on a fourth down play on its own 21-yard line three plays into the fourth quarter Saturday afternoon, Landon School coach Paul Padalino did not hesitate to call on his workhorse, senior tailback Myles Allen.
Fortunately for the Bears, Allen was able to crash through the middle of the line for the all important first down, allowing them to continue to chew up the clock with the game deadlocked at 7. Thirteen plays later, fellow running back Jamal Francois busted loose on a 28-yard dash to the end zone with 3 minutes, 44 seconds remaining to give Landon the lead for good at 14-7. The momentum continued for the Bears and they finished the game with a 21-7 victory over St. Albans.
The win gave Landon (7-3) the outright Interstate Athletic Conference championship and sent the homecoming crowd and its rowdy, enthusiastic student section into an on-field frenzy at William H. Triplett Field in Bethesda.
“We know we can run the ball well, so we figured we’d come out here with the same game plan we’ve been using and continue running the ball,” said Allen. “I figured we were bigger and stronger than those guys, so we just had to go man to man, and lets push it in there, and that’s what we did. I knew it was important that we had to get that yard at that point of the game”.
The go-ahead touchdown drive ate up 8:15 on 16 plays from scrimmage. Allen, who finished the game with 99 yards on 18 carries, not only earned the all-important first down in that series, but also added insurance to the title with a 40-yard touchdown run with 1:11 left in the contest.
“We’ve been running the ball all year, that’s what we do,” said Padalino. “If we were going to be successful in this game, we were going to have to go for it on fourth down. Kicking the ball wasn’t an option, it doesn’t matter where you put [St. Albans]. They like to throw the ball, so if they were going to hit on big, they would have hit whether they were on the 20 or on the 40. So for us it was a matter of, ‘let’s see if we can keep the ball in our hands and out of theirs.’”
As potentially explosive as the Bulldogs (4-6) offense could be, the Bears defense were able to keep the visitors to just one score — a 56-yard bomb from senior quarterback Mike McCurdy to senior wide receiver Matt Kelley with 2:07 left in the second quarter to tie the score at 7. In the first quarter, Francois (15 carries, 89 yards) scored to give his team the lead on a 3-yard scamper around the left corner. that culminated an 11-play drive.
Defensively, Landon was able to collect five sacks while keeping St. Albans running back Arthur Jones to 51 yards on 15 carries.
“The had some very good offensive players, their quarterback, [wide receivers Matt Sniezek and Chris Fraser] and their running back [Jones], so we went in with a game plan of not letting [Sniezek and Fraser] beat us, and I think we did a good job of that,” Padalino said.
“Our defensive front seven did a great job of not letting Arthur Jones get on track running the ball, which allowed us to play enough guys in the secondary to take care of their two big play receivers. Andrew Mitchell, our linebackers Jack Falk, Jackson Howard, Kolby Williams, Jules Desroaches all did a great job today. We rotate those six guys in and out up front all game long, and then our other linebackers Mike Rhoads and Falk and Phil Pena, who was having a great year as our quarterback but broke his hand in week six, but he did a great job of being our spy today against Jones.”
Landon 21, St. Albans 7
St. Albans (4-6) 0 7 0 0 — 7
Landon (7-3) 7 0 0 14 — 21
L — Jamal Francois 3 run (Matt Underhill kick)
S — Matt Kelley 56 pass from Mike McCurdy (Collin Wareham kick)
L— Jamal Francois 28 run (Matt Underhill kick)
L— Myles Allen 40 run (Matt Underhill kick)
St. Albans — Arthur Jones 15-51.
Landon — Myles Allen 18-99; Jamal Francois 15-89; Peter Laco 5-19; Kyle Hartman 6-16.
St. Albans — Mike McCurdy 8-19 130-0.
Landon — Kyle Hartman 7-9 93-0.
St. Albans — Chris Fraser 4-37; Matt Kelley 3-78; Jones 1-15.
Landon — Anthony Fullum 2-36; Jamal Francois 2-29; Austin Petty 2-22; Jamal Seegers 1-6.