LYNN — A first half full of mistakes came back to haunt the St. Mary’s football team Saturday night as the Spartans’ late rally fell short and they lost, 27-20, to Archbishop Williams at Manning Field.
Williams was able to contain a Spartans’ ground game that had been very effective throughout the Catholic Central League this fall. St. Mary’s gained less than 40 rushing yards in the first half and trailed 21-6 at the break. Two first-half turnovers did not help.
“Hats off to them,” St. Mary’s coach Sean Driscoll said of the Bishops, “They played hard and obviously they prepared well. They took away some of our better plays that we had going for us this year. That team is getting better and better each week. They lost to Fenwick last week but they played them tough.
“At the end of the day it was 21-6 at the half and we came out in the second half fighting,” Driscoll added. “But you have to make your extra-points and those two-point plays and we didn’t do that.”
Archbishop Williams was all over the Spartans’ offense from the first whistle. The Bishops forced a fumble and two St. Mary’s punts on their way to a 13-0 lead in the first quarter. Neil Sanders (8-for-19 for 157 yards and two passing touchdowns) scored on a 2-yard run and found Colton Casper (four catches, 80 yards and two touchdowns) on a 32-yard touchdown pass.
The Spartans were able to score after recovering a fumble on their own 37. Jalen Echevarria (114 rushing yards and two touchdowns) found the end zone on a 12-yard run later in the drive to cut the Bishops’ lead to 13-6.
St. Mary’s defense couldn’t stop Archbishop Williams on the following drive, however, as Sanders found Casper for a 24-yard touchdown to put the Bishops ahead 21-6 seconds before the end of the half.
Despite the deficit, Driscoll said the Spartans were confident they could battle back into the game.
“We felt good and we felt confident that we could get it going in the second half,” Driscoll said. “I like the way we came out in the second half, that was the St. Mary’s that we know.”
After the Spartans got a stop on 4th-and-2 to start the second half, Echevarria reeled his team right back into the game, breaking several tackles on his way to a 57-yard touchdown run that pulled the Spartans within a touchdown at 21-14.
It looked like the comeback might be complete on the next drive when quarterback Derek O’Leary found receiver Eni Falayi for a 10-yard touchdown pass to put the Spartans behind by just one point. However, a failed two-point conversion run left the Bishops clinging to a 21-20 lead.
Later in the second half the Spartans failed to capitalize on an interception and found themselves down 27-20 after a 3-yard touchdown run by Nicolas Tardanico with less than two minutes to play.
With one last shot, the Spartans drove into Williams’ territory and, with help from a personal foul penalty, found themselves with a 1st-and-goal with just seconds to play.
On the last play of the game, O’Leary rolled out to his left and threw a pass intended for Echevarria at the goal line but the ball was tipped into the air and intercepted by Tardanico to seal the game.
St. Mary’s (4-2) will hope to rebound when it hosts Mashpee Friday (7).
“We just have to lick our wounds, regroup and get ready,” Driscoll said. “We have a big game here next week we have to play Mashpee, one of the better teams in the state, so we have to get better for that.
“I think this might have been a bit of a wake up call,” Driscoll added “You can’t come out flat and you can’t turn the ball over. I’m proud of the way we responded in the second half, that is one positive. The bad news is that we lost, but we have a big game next week and hopefully we get better. We have to.”