Big plays help Cougars ground Falcons

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The feeling was mutual among the Bishop Ford players.

The thought of St. John the Baptist winning on a few big plays didn’t sit well with any of them, especially when the Falcons had contained the Cougars offense for an entire half. But Michael Gangitano’s 90-yard kick return for a touchdown right after the break was the start of an explosive half highlighted by two more long scoring runs for St. John the Baptist in a 21-6 win over Bishop Ford in CHSFL AA-A at Aviator Sports Complex Saturday night.

“It stinks knowing that you lost a game off of a couple of big plays, off a kick return,” Bishop Ford senior fullback Tim Wade said. “It’s like a cardinal rule not to give up a kick return and we gave one up today.”

Following a scoreless first half, St. John the Baptist made it 14-0 on a 77-yard touchdown run by junior Derelle Hunter with 7:00 left in the third quarter. Hunter rushed for 162 yards on nine carries and Vincent Iacona ran for 46 of his 86 yards on a scoring run in the fourth quarter to increase the Cougars lead to 21-6 with 4:30 remaining. The back-breaking burst came the play after Ford (2-2, 1-2 CHSFL AA-A) was stopped on fourth down.

“We just needed the blocking and we knew we could break one,” Hunter said. “We just get that seams and we are ready to take the ball down the field and score.”

While St. John the Baptist (2-2, 2-1) was producing runs for a highlight reel, Bishop Ford’s playmaker, Steven Browne, was on the sideline for most of the second half with a leg injury. He did return in the fourth quarter, but the game was out of reach by then.

“He is an explosive player,” Falcons quarterback Anthony Esposito said. “He is our best back.”

His replacement fared well though. Junior Josiah Collier pounded the openings in the left side of the St. John the Baptist line late in the third quarter. He carried the ball seven times for 33 yards on a 10-play, 55-yard drive. Collier ended it with a 2-yard touchdown run to cut the St. John the Baptist lead to 14-6 with 3:51 to go in the quarter.

“When Steven went down we couldn’t hang our heads,” Collier said. “We just had to keep playing.”

A heavy pass rush put tremendous pressure on Esposito in the pocket and the Ford ground game never broke loose, making a comeback troublesome. Devon Mitchell rushed for 61 yards on nine carries for Bishop Ford, which lost its second straight game. Falcons coach Jim Esposito refused to talk to the media after the game and his players shared an overall disappointment in their performance.

“Everything has to get better,” Anthony Esposito said. “We all have to chip in as a team.”

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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