Since older brothers Kevin and Joe rowed at Roman Catholic, Michael Leyland decided to give it a try when he first arrived at Broad and Vine.
“It just wasn’t for me,” the 17-year-old said. “I wanted to play a sport that involved physical contact.”
On Saturday afternoon, Leyland’s rugged efforts as a two-way lineman helped the previously winless Cahillites blank Archbishop Carroll, 6-0, in a Catholic League Red Division contest at Benjamin L. Johnston Memorial Stadium.
In posting their first victory, Roman (1-5, 1-1 league) held the Patriots to 170 yards rushing, 35 passing, and 11 first downs.
“It feels great, especially considering our rough start,” said Leyland, an offensive tackle and defensive end. “This was a big win for us. We needed it.”
The difference in the defensive tussle was Marquise Cooper’s 12-yard run around right end with less than 6 minutes remaining. A missed extra-point kick opened the door for a possible comeback win by the visitors.
On Carroll’s next offensive play, fullback Russell Minor-Shaw (15 carries for 115 yards) rumbled 38 yards to the Roman 27-yard line. On fourth-and-4 from the 21, with Kamal Gray rolling right and looking for an open receiver, Leyland sacked the athletic quarterback for a 7-yard loss.
“I knew it was something we needed,” Leyland said. “I had to get to him and make the play.”
After suffering a sprained ankle in the second quarter of the previous week’s 38-6 loss to Archbishop Wood, the 6-foot-4, 245-pound captain only practiced Friday.
“It was bothering me throughout this game,” he said. “I’ll have to put it back in the [protective] boot. But you do what you have to do to stay out there and keep playing.”
“He’s big, athletic, and tough,” Cahillites coach Jim Murphy said of Leyland, a second-year starter. “He gutted it out.”
On Carroll’s final possession, linebacker Kienan Pope clinched the triumph by dumping Gray for a 4-yard loss near midfield.
Leyland was joined up front on defense by Fred Palumbo (third-quarter sack), Harrison Frazier-Gibson, Stephen Sakrzewski, Brian Snyder, and Daniel Fitts.
Support came from linebackers Duran “Deuces” McAliley and Brian Burton, cornerbacks Donathan McCants and Miles Jowers, and safeties Cooper and Ryan Reeder.
Leyland, a left tackle on offense, is also a standout on the mat. Last year, competing at 220 pounds, the Cheltenham resident was one of two Roman wrestlers to qualify for the PIAA state tournament.
Cooper carried 16 times for 88 yards against the Patriots (2-4, 0-3). On his TD run, he received a clearing block inside the 5 from speedy wideout Malik Griffin.
With an eye on being a police officer, Leyland plans to major in criminal justice in college. “He’s very aggressive,” Cooper said. “I love running behind him.”
Archbishop Carroll 0 0 0 0 – 0
Roman Catholic 0 0 0 6 – 6
RC: Marquise Cooper 12 run (kick failed)