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Football games can sometimes turn on a single play and such was the case for Central Catholic in last night s 31-14 City League victory over visiting St. John s Jesuit at a packed Gallagher Stadium.
Which play was the turning point? It depends whose perspective you consider.
The bottom line was junior quarterback Dave Walender found Eric Bates on a six-yard touchdown pass just 1.7 seconds before halftime to put the Fighting Irish (4-0, 1-0 CL) ahead 10-7 at the break.
That was huge because we weren t playing very well and they definitely had control of the game, Irish coach Greg Dempsey said. You can call it a fluke, but a couple guys made a play and we were lucky enough to take advantage of it.
Using this momentum boost, Central broke things open with a strong ground game after halftime.
For the Titans (1-3, 0-1), the pivotal play might have come five plays before Bates go-ahead TD, when, on fourth-down-and-4, Mike Noward punted 44 yards to the Central 31.
I thought we had them drawn offsides on the punt, Titans coach Doug Pearson said. If that was the case, then we get a first down and we at least run out the clock and they don t score. I m not saying that was the difference in the game, but it was a momentum shift.
The key after the break for the Irish was converting all six of their third-down situations after a 2-for-7 effort in the first two quarters.
We made some adjustments at halftime, and the kids did a great job of executing, Dempsey said, and our backs ran hard. Brad Rogers did a great job tonight.
Each team took advantage of turnovers to get their first points of the game.
St. John s scored after Rogers lost a fumble at his 32. Titan back P.J. Wimberly (six carries, 38 yards) went 28 yards around right end to set up QB Walt Anderson s four-yard TD run with 3:49 left in the first quarter.
It was Rogers, off a linebacker blitz, who recovered an Anderson fumble on the Titan 17 with 4:03 left in the half. That set up Kyle Burkhardt s 41-yard field goal.
Central s took just 45 seconds to cover 69 yards and take the 10-7 lead to halftime. Walender hit Zach Messer for 38 yards and Nate Hobbs for 25 to give the Irish a first-and-goal at the 6.
The kids came out fired up and ready to go, and I thought we played pretty good defense in the first half against the Bash Brothers [Rogers and Marrow], Pearson said. Then we gave up a couple easy seam routes [late in the half], and you can t do that.
After Mike Marrow s tailback pass to Hobbs got Central to the 1, backup QB Bates spiked the ball to stop the clock with 7.6 seconds left in the half.
Central was penalized back to the 6 for delay of game before Walender found Bates for the score.
The story of the second half was Rogers (25 carries, 126 yards), who ran for 105 yards and scored on runs of 4 and 3 yards in the third and fourth quarters.
We went into the locker room and made some halftime adjustments and came out strong, said Rogers, who missed last week s 21-10 win over Anthony Wayne with a bruised left knee. You can never get down on yourself. It was a struggle all week to get back in shape and get back out there. I had to play this game. I couldn t let my team down.
St. John s sandwiched a TD between Rogers two scores. Anderson hit sophomore Cheatham Norrils on a 15-yard TD pass with 10:19 remaining.
Marrow s late one-yard TD plunge capped things for the preseason CL favorites, who topped St. John s 308-204 in total offense. Walender was seven of 15 passing for 139 yards. Anderson was 10 of 16 for 143 yards.
We hadn t beat them in two years, so we were running on that, Irish senior linebacker Dave Pickerel said. We just wanted it bad. We kept pressure on the quarterback and stayed on our keys.
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