ARCHBISHOP RYAN 27, ST. JOSEPH'S PREP 14
Though it was eliminated from Catholic League Class AAAA playoff contention earlier this month, Archbishop Ryan's football squad has done anything but play out the string.
Saturday afternoon, in upending a top-ten squad for the second time in as many weeks, the Raiders surprised No. 1-ranked St. Joseph's Prep, 27-14, in a league contest at George Washington.
A week earlier at the same site, Ryan turned back Archbishop Wood, who came in ranked No. 5 in Southeastern Pennsylvania by The Inquirer, by a 22-7 decision.
"I think we have a very good program, and we wanted to prove it," Raiders boss Frank McArdle said. "I think we've done that the last two weeks."
After opening the season with four consecutive nonleague victories, by a combined score of 186-37, Ryan dropped three consecutive league games. That spelled an end to its bid for a return trip to the playoffs.
"I think, after we knew we weren't going to make the playoffs, that we were looser and more relaxed," Ryan defensive tackle Andrew Hund said. "That may have helped us."
Against St. Joe's Prep, which had won five straight since a 42-0 nonleague loss to Don Bosco Prep (N.J.), Ryan, looking to slow down the Hawks' speed-laden backfield, switched from a 4-3 scheme on defense to a 3-4.
"We were so nervous about their athletes," McArdle said. "We wanted to give our kids the chance to stop the vertical routes, the bubble screens, all the things they can do in open space."
The 6-foot-4, 300-pound Hund, who is drawing interest from the Division III likes of Susquehanna, was joined up front by Joe Hansbury and Sean Boylan.
"I think we did a pretty good job of stopping the run," said Hund, a first-year starter. "And that's not easy to do against St. Joe's Prep. They have some dangerous players."
Also making key contributions on defense were linebackers Jesse Wireman and Connor Rooney, and safeties Connor Golden (three interceptions) and Bobby Romano.
Ryan (6-3, 1-3 Catholic AAAA) was spurred on offense by junior tailback Samir Bullock, who rushed for 200-plus yards and a pair of touchdowns.
"He really competed hard, made a couple of great runs," said McArdle of Bullock, who scored on second-half bursts of 25 and 36 yards.
In the first half, after the Hawks took an early lead, Mark Ostaszewski found tight end John Liguori and Golden for scores of 36 and 32 yards, respectively, to put the hosts ahead, 14-7, at the break.
Despite the loss, St. Joe's Prep (6-2, 3-1) placed first in the league and will face fourth-place Roman Catholic (3-6, 1-3) in a semifinal playoff next weekend at a site and time to be determined.
"I have a ton of respect for [Hawks head coach] Gabe Infante and his program," McArdle said. "For us to beat a team like that, it's huge. I'm really proud of our kids."
St. Joseph's Prep 7 0 0 7-14
Archbishop Ryan 7 7 13 0-27
SJP: Olamide Zaccheaus 1 run (Pat Walsh kick)
AR: John Liguori 36 pass from Mark Ostaszewski (Joe Stock kick)
AR: Connor Golden 32 pass from Ostaszewski (Stock kick)
AR: Samir Bullock 25 run (Stock kick)
AR: Bullock 36 run (kick failed)
SJP: Jawan McAllister 16 pass from Jack Clements (Walsh kick)