The St. Mary’s Ryken Knights football team did not start off their Washington Catholic Athletic Conference Metro Division semifinal with visiting Bishop O’Connell on the right foot.
On a cold, windy Saturday afternoon in Leonardtown, St. Mary’s Ryken received the opening kickoff only for the visitors from Virginia to recover the ball.
The Knights would quickly bounce back, with the defense getting an interception three plays later, en route to scoring 28 first-quarter points and taking the contest 48-6.
St. Mary’s Ryken plays Archbishop Carroll of Washington, D.C. in the WCAC Metro Division championship game, which is scheduled for 1 p.m. Sunday at Catholic University in Washington, D.C.
“We played a very competitive schedule in non-league to prepare us for our league games and the playoffs. Playing those top teams prepared us for big games,” Knights head coach Aaron Brady said. “We are excited about the opportunity to prep for a championship at Catholic University on Sunday. Our number one goal since last December was to be back in this game.”
The Knights (8-3 overall), who won their fifth straight game on Saturday, defeated Carroll on the road to wrap up the regular season on Nov. 9, 35-12. Carroll defeated Paul VI of Virginia in Saturday’s other Metro semifinal, 50-9.
“I’m very happy for this team,” said St. Mary’s Ryken quarterback Trev Nored, who threw two touchdown passes in the win. “We’ve become a whole team and just grew love together and it’s just a great feeling.”
After the interception from Kirk Mitchell, Jamaree Bowman led St. Mary’s Ryken down the field for its first score of the day. Bowman had 55 yards on the ground the Knights’ opening drive, capped by a 9-yard touchdown run and a 7-0 lead.
Later in the period, the windy conditions yielded a short O’Connell punt and St. Mary’s Ryken took over inside the visitors’ 25-yard line with Bowman finishing a three-play drive with a 6-yard touchdown run and the hosts led 14-0. Five of the Knights’ seven first-half possessions started deep in O’Connell territory.
Dez Williams took an O’Connell punt back to the 20 and, two plays later, caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from Nored for a touchdown and the lead grew to 21-0. Kaylen Perez returned an interception for a score on O’Connell’s next possession and it was 28-0 for St. Mary’s Ryken with still 1 minute 18 seconds left in the first quarter.
“We had a miscue on the opening kick and didn’t recover the ball. Our defense responded to the sudden change very well with a stop and our offense went down and scored,” Brady said. “We did want to get up early and force them to play from behind. Our front seven took away the run game and made them one-dimensional.”
The Knights scored on the first possession of the second quarter as Williams returned an O’Connell punt to the 2 and, two plays later, Aiden Weber ran it in from two yards out.
A blocked punt set up St. Mary’s Ryken for its next drive at the O’Connell 15 and it quickly led to a Nored touchdown pass to Kyle Webster. The Knights went to halftime up 42-0.
“We got up on them early so we didn’t really have to do much in the second part of the game,” Nored said.
A running clock, which started in the second quarter, continued into the second half. Weber’s 22-yard touchdown run midway through the third made it 48-0 with the extra point failed.
O’Connell, which also has the Knights as its mascot like St. Mary’s Ryken, broke up the shutout with a touchdown early in the fourth, but also missed the extra point. O’Connell was limited to 73 yards total offense, the majority of the yardage coming in the final quarter.
“I’m proud of our seniors and their efforts today,” said Brady, noting Colyn and Kyle Webster, Garrett Watkins, Jacob Quasney, Weber, Dominic Taylor, Joseph Newton and Mitchell.
Nored added: “I’m happy for these seniors, last game on this field, and we just put it up for them.”
For St. Mary’s Ryken, the page turns to another championship game and hopes of going back-to-back.
“We went last year and second time going we feel like we got to get another ring,” Nored said.