Most Holy Redeemer (MHR) Elementary School Coach Mark Phelan had seen his defense stand its ground one time after another.
The Raiders had posted 4 wins, all of them shutouts.
Then in Week 5, the biggest test of the season awaited, a showdown with an undefeated St. John Fisher (SJF) squad averaging 37 points.
However, the Raiders were up to the challenge.
Playing spoiler at host SJF’s Homecoming game, MHR defeated the Falcons 18-6 on Sept. 28 at Beverly Park in a Southside Catholic Conference showdown.
“We have a lot of talent. You could see it early in practice,” Phelan said. “We’ve had some low-scoring games because of mistakes, but we cut down on mistakes. It’s helped us immensely. The kids do what they’re taught.”
MHR improved to 5-0 with games remaining against St. Christina and St. Catherine.
Playing in muddy conditions after heavy rains flooded the middle of the field, the Raiders embraced the Mud Bowl conditions and set the tone early.
On MHR’s first possession, quarterback Jack Tomkins found Noah Gertonson in the end zone with 3:43 remaining in the first quarter for an 11-yard touchdown on a fourth-down play. Edward Maloney converted the 2-point kick.
On the next possession, the MHR defense held its ground again, forcing a SJF punt. The Raiders blocked the punt, and the ball deflected out of the back of the end zone for a safety.
“The defense comes together as a team and a group really well,” Phelan said. “We’ve got a couple kids from Queen of Martyrs who have helped us a lot. Every week, the kids get better at listening to direction. They believe in the plan, and that’s where the success comes from.”
Working with a 10-0 lead, the MHR defense did the rest against SJF. Colin Dickman picked off Falcons quarterback Owen Winters early in the second quarter. Nolan Smith also recovered a SJF fumble later in the quarter.
Phelan credited Smith and Gerald O’Hare on the defensive line, Thomas Amado and Leo Niksic at linebacker and Gertonson for their strong play on defense.
Jack Tomkins also delivered a timely pass break-up on a late SJF drive.
SJF finally broke through, scoring on a 40-yard Elijah Nelson TD run in the closing minutes as MHR surrendered its first points of the season.
Playing double duty, Gertonson also rushed for an 11-yard TD late in the fourth quarter. Maloney converted the kick. Gertonson finished with 10 carries for 53 yards.
Niksic rushed for 21 yards. MHR rushed for 88 yards as a team.
SJF dropped to 4-1 with upcoming games against St. Catherine and St. Michael.
“It’s a perfect wake-up call,” said SJF Coach Mark Fennell. “Playing the first four weeks, they put up a lot of points. It shows you how much work we need to do. They’re not going to show up and win. Other teams with equal talent are not going to back down.”
Winters and running back Tommy Sloyan have been key weapons offensively for the Falcons. Fennell credited linemen Tom Sheerin and Joe Chirillo for their strong play on offense and defense all season.
Liam Callaghan had an interception for SJF against the Raiders. Chirillo recovered a MHR fumble.
The offense never quite clicked against the stingy MHR defense.
“The Redeemer defense played a big part and dominated up front,” Fennell said. “We had some bad snaps and players slip in the mud where we couldn’t connect. When we needed a tough yard, we couldn’t get it. Give all credit to MHR. They whooped us.”
The MHR roster includes Jack Tomkins, Kevin Tomkins, Quinn Lyons, Charles Blake, Patrick Mangin, Daniel Morris, Rowan Smyth, Thomas Amado, Patrick Gilhooly, Noah Gertonson, Brendan Doran, James Czerwinski, Connor Callahan, Daniel Terri, Casey Wollenberg, Colin Dickman, Leo Niksic, Matthew Harmon, Christian Oldenburger, Ashton Gray, James Crane, Matthew McKee, Thomas Demro, Francis Degnan, Timothy O’Hara, Theodore Aguilera, Conor Graefen, Lucas Molenhouse, Edward Maloney, Nolan Smith, Gerald O’Hare and Daniel Egan.
The SJF roster includes Aidan McIntyre, Owen Winters, Jacke Schied, Tim Harrigan, Marty Riley, Ed Condon, Kevin Hogan, Michael Carroll, Cooper McAlilly, Tom Perry, Jack Perry, Jack Callaghan, Nolan Daley, Tom Sloyan, Elijah Nelson, Marty Mann, Brendan Harkins, Jackson Barrins, Liam Callaghan, Patrick Hermanson, Matthew Erickson, Cormac Lacy, Jake Frederking, Michael Zablocki, Luke Spatz, Joe Nolan, Joe Chirillo, Tom Sheerin, Floyd Webber Jr., Conor Sullivan, Richard Willis, John Danaher, Matthew Urbon, Joe Moonan and Michael Moonan.