Backfield duo helps St. Mary’s football team to victory over Arlington Catholic

George Freeman does some of the heavy lifting for St. Mary's ground game. (File Photo)

MEDFORD — The running back duo of Jalen Echevarria and George Freeman has proven to be a winning combination for the St. Mary’s football team.

The Catholic Central League’s starting to take note.

Echevarria and Freeman each ran for more than 100 yards Saturday afternoon in St. Mary’s 28-12 win over CCL rival Arlington Catholic at Hormel Stadium.

“We have a straight ahead guy in George and a nifty guy in Jalen,” St. Mary’s coach Sean Driscoll said. “Jalen’s just a competitor. He’s always on the field, never wants to leave regardless of the score or what the situation is. He’s been a great addition to our team. He had another 100-yard game. George and our special teams were great today. They did everything we asked them to do which was big for us.”

Echevarria scored two touchdowns, one on the ground and one on a pass, and finished with 110 rushing yards on 15 carries. Freeman finished with 112 rushing yards on 14 carries and scored on a 45-yard rush in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Derek O’Leary scored on a 1-yard keeper and tossed a 27-yard touchdown pass to Echevarria.

In a penalty-filled first half, it was the Spartans who came out on top with a one-touchdown lead. St. Mary’s recovered a short opening kickoff near midfield and it only took the Spartans three plays to find the end zone with an ounce of trickery. Echevarria took a double-handoff and turned on the jets, running 52 yards down the visitor’s sideline for the first touchdown of the game with 9:23 remaining in the opening quarter. Freeman powered his way in on the 2-point conversion to give St. Mary’s an 8-0 lead.

Arlington Catholic wasted no time answering St. Mary’s touchdown. Cougars running back Josh Smith capped his team’s first drive with an 11-yard touchdown run. Brendan Laundry broke up a pass on the 2-point conversion attempt and the Spartans held an 8-6 lead at the end of the first quarter.

“We had some big players out today, between Patrick Henry and Lee Pacheco,” Driscoll said. “We had a lot of guys out. But it was a gutty performance based on a Saturday afternoon, SAT day, a lot of little distractions going in. We started off very slow but Jalen, a competitor, showed up and bailed us out with a couple nice runs.”

Echevarria boosted St. Mary’s lead before the end of the half. With 1:53 to play in the second quarter, O’Leary rolled to his right and tossed a 27-yard touchdown pass to Echevarria. The Spartans failed on the conversion but carried a 14-6 lead at halftime.

“That was a big play,” Driscoll said. “I think we got them on some play-action, which was good because we were running the ball pretty successfully on that drive. That was a big pass and a great way to end the half on a good note.”
A muffed kick to open the second half, recovered by Echevarria, gave the Spartans the ball with another short field. Continuing their ground and pound attack, the Spartans marched down to the red zone. Echevarria’s 11-yard carry set up O’Leary for a 1-yard touchdown on a quarterback keeper. O’Leary added the conversion to boost the Spartans’ lead to 22-6. That’s where it stayed at the end of the third quarter.

Arlington Catholic slimmed its deficit down to 22-12 on quarterback Riley Donovan’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Steven DiLeo with 9:42 left in the game (conversion failed). St. Mary’s capped its scoring with Freeman’s 45-yard touchdown run (conversion failed). Eni Falayi’s late interception prevented the Cougars from mounting a rally and St. Mary’s walked away with its fourth victory of the season.

The Spartans (4-1) host Archbishop Williams Saturday night (7).

“I’m sure that’s going to be a physical battle,” Driscoll said. “They’re always physical on the pass from what I understand. It’ll be a physical battle, we’ll take it from there.”

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