MARPLE — Scoring 66 points in the first two games of the season but still carrying a zero in the win column didn’t sit particularly well with Father Judge’s defense this week.
So at practice, armed with extra focus, the Crusaders resolved to make Game No. 3 different.
“We just had hard practices throughout the whole week, we didn’t have any let-ups,” sophomore lineman Jacob Mulgrave said. “And we came into this game wanting to win. We were down two games, but it didn’t matter, it was a new game this week.”
Judge kept Cardinal O’Hara off the board for more than 45 minutes Friday night, which was more than enough room for the dynamic offensive duo of quarterback Aiden Dooley and running back Dameir Johnson to make an impact in a 28-6 win.
The defense caused two turnovers, including a first-half interception by Johnson. Mulgrave, older brother Liam, and Dylan Mierzejewski were in the backfield all day, Jacob Mulgrave leading the effort with 2.5 tackles for loss.
It wasn’t until Cole Sprague’s touchdown with 2:20 to play that O’Hara (1-1) got on the board, but that consolation merely averted the shutout.
Father Judge’s defense got a little assistance when O’Hara feature back Keed Kpoto rolled his ankle under the weight of a tackle in the first half. Though the ankle was heavily re-taped and he gave it a go on the sidelines, he didn’t get back in the game, limited to four carries for 0 yards and cleaving away a large part of the O’Hara playbook in his absence.
“He’s a great player,” Sprague said. “He’s one of the best players in the league. The play calls definitely change, we have to spread it around more, mix it up more, work it out.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Jacob Mulgrave said of Judge’s adjustment. “They still have another running back coming in. We have to treat him like how we treated the first one.”
Sprague was the only one who adapted. He rushed 13 times for 79 yards, including the 10-yard score. The rest of the Lions toted 15 times for minus-8 yards. He was also 10-for-15 through the air but for just 53 yards, the vertical element to the passing game non-existent save for an intercepted deep ball in the first quarter.
His longest completion was a 16-yarder to Michael Levy.
Sprague busted a 21-yard gainer to the 17 on the Lions’ first series of the third quarter, with O’Hara down 14-0. But a simple off-guard dive by Hunter Whitlock was stuffed on fourth-and-5 from the 12, ending a promising march.
A gutsy O’Hara defense hemmed in Judge and gave its offense another short field to work with, but Jared Noel blew up a handoff between Sprague and Dante Paoletti, and Sean McGovern pounced on the loose fumble.
Seven plays later, Johnson dashed 16 yards for his second score of the day to make it 21-0, and that was effectively that.
“We got stopped, but we have to get right back on defense, stop them and do the same thing again, keep on going,” Sprague said.
Johnson carried 19 times for 170 yards, including a 22-yard score in the first quarter. Dooley covered 58 yards on 16 carries as Judge (1-2) ran for 270 yards.
“We’ve got a good chemistry, so I’ve got his back and he’s got mine,” Johnson said of his quarterback. “We just carry it like that.”
Dooley was 5-for-11 through the air for 71 yards. He found Matt Comas wide open in the end zone on a deep corner route in the second quarter for a 10-yard touchdown, then hooked up with McGovern on a four-yard out route for a score on fourth-and-goal.
The offense clicking wasn’t a new development for Judge. That its defense also rose to the occasion is what made Friday’s result different.
“Our offense was doing good, but our defense wasn’t doing so good,” Jacob Mulgrave said. “Our defense had to pick it up, and finally we picked it up and we won the game tonight.”