St. Augustine’s set the tone for the 2019 season with a shutout over Booker T. Washington in last week’s jamboree, and the formula remained largely the same for Saturday’s, 24-13, season-opening win against McDonogh 35 at Tad Gormley Stadium.
The Purple Knight defense was a physical force throughout most of the night racking up four sacks with seven more tackles for loss in addition to forcing two turnovers.
“Getting to the quarterback is really the most important thing,” said junior defensive lineman Byron Turner Jr., who had two of the team’s four sacks. “It just comes with hard work at practice. We work on our assignments and go over different things and make sure we understand everything before we go into the game.”
St. Augustine’s first takeaway came courtesy of a 15-yard pick-6 by Kansas commitment Taiwan Berryhill for the first points of the game, and Purple Knights coach Nate Jones was pleased with the unit’s performance.
“I thought the defense played well and put us in good positions on offense,” said Jones, who wanted to see a bit more from the other side of the ball. “We came away with the win but at the end of the day, it’s a lot of things we can get better at. We were a little sloppy on offense and we’ve got to make more plays on that side of the ball.”
The Purple Knights’ slow start offensively almost cost them as McDonogh 35 scored two straight touchdowns in the second and third quarters to take the lead.
The Roneagles covered 61 yards in nine plays on their first scoring drive that included a big 25-yard run by running back Steveland Williams Jr., but also got some help from St. Augustine along the way including a late hit penalty that put them in the redzone. The Purple Knights looked like they would still get out of the drive relatively unscathed after McDonogh 35 missed a 30-yard field goal, but St. Aug was whistled for a roughing the kicker penalty that extended the drive.
Two plays later, the Roneagles capitalized on the mistake with senior quarterback Demond Pratt hitting senior tight end Desmond Carriere for a 12-yard touchdown cutting the deficit to 12-7 with 1:16 to go until halftime.
That drive apparently gave McDonogh 35 some confidence as they took possession first out of halftime and proceeded to cover 60 yards in nine plays for another score.
They were assisted again on the drive by a St. Aug personal foul that put the ball just outside the redzone, and Williams came through with another big run dashing 25 yards to the end zone. David Green tacked on the extra point for a 13-12 lead with 6:38 left in the third, but that proved to be the end of McDonogh 35’s success on offense as they were shut out the rest of the way.
“We did play pretty well, but we didn’t play to our abilities on offense,” Roneagle coach Wayne Reese said. “Our defense did a tremendous job, but offensively, we kept giving them the ball back in scoring position and we just didn’t do our job tonight and that’s something we’ve got to improve on.”
The momentum was squarely in McDonogh 35’s favor when they forced St. Aug to go three-and-out once again on the next drive, but a muffed punt recovered by the Purple Knights gave them prime field position yet again.
Senior running back Mahmood Bailey broke free for a 30-yard pickup on the first play of the drive, and senior receiver Jaheim Walters scored two plays later with a beautiful toe-tap 7-yard catch in the end zone on a pass from junior Kendell Sampson Jr.
St. Augustine tried to go for two to put themselves ahead by seven, but the run was stuffed at the line of scrimmage leaving them with an 18-13 advantage with 3:39 left in the third.
The contest morphed back into a defensive battle from there with five straight possessions ending in a punt or failed fourth down conversion, the last of which was committed by the Roneagles as a failed fake punt set St. Augustine up at McDonogh 35’s 33-yard line.
The Purple Knights took advantage of the short field this time with a nice 14-yard catch by Walters that set up a 6-yard scoring run by Bailey with 2:40 left to put the game away up, 24-13.
Walters finished with three catches for 49 yards and a score on Saturday, and appears to be a player the Purple Knights will be able to rely on going forward.
“We expect that out of (Walters),” Jones said. “He played defense for us last year and now he’s playing receiver and we expect big things from him.”
“I just have to thank all the coaches and players that helped me, especially my quarterback Kendell (Sampson),” said Walters, a converted defensive back. “(Sampson) stayed after practice with me a lot running routes and making sure that we had everything right. It felt great stepping up and making plays when we needed it most.”
St. Augustine still had a tough time as a whole offensively, though, finishing with 124 yards to McDonogh 35’s 164, and they squandered a handful of scoring opportunities throughout the night.
The Purple Knights started their first two drives just over midfield in McDonogh 35 territory, but went three-and-out on both occasions. They were able to pick up a first down on their third drive, but still ended up punting.
That’s when the defense came up with their second big play of the night when an errant pitch was recovered by St. Aug defensive tackle Future Lee Jr. at the Roneagles’ 10-yard line. Despite prime field position, though, the Purple Knights only picked up two yards on two runs and an incompletion before Jaron Marks III booted through his first field goal of the night from 23 yards out for a 9-0 advantage with 9:23 to go in the second quarter.
St. Augustine then caught another break on McDonogh 35’s next drive when a bad snap on a punt set the Purple Knights up just seven yards away from a score. This time St. Aug went backwards on the drive giving up three yards before Marks connected on a 26-yard field goal for a 12-0 lead.
“We’ve been starting out slow on offense,” Walters admitted. “In practice this week we have to focus on that and make sure we come out fast next week.”
Walters and the rest of “Big Purple” will play host to Landry-Walker Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Tad Gormley Stadium in Week 2. McDonogh 35, meanwhile, is set to take on Karr Thursday at at 7 p.m. at Tad Gormley Stadium, and coach Reese views every pre-district matchup as a warmup to the games that count the most.
“Right now, these games don’t mean nothing to us as far as winning and losing,” explained Reese, who also noted the team is looking for Pratt or fellow senior Manuel Armstrong to take hold of the starting position at quarterback.
“We’re trying to get our kids ready for district and the playoffs. If we can do what we have to do to show the kids ‘you’re not doing what you’re supposed to do,” then they can see themselves when they look on film…I call this the preseason and those are the games that count.”
McDonogh 35: 164 yards of total offense (46 rushing, 118 passing)
St. Augustine: 124 yards of total offense (41 rushing, 83 passing)
Rushing: Steveland Williams Jr., 17-71, 1 TD; Ashton Jones, 3-12; Raymond Foreman, 11; Manuel Armstrong, 6-6; Team, 1-(-14); Claudell McDonald, 1-(-18); Demond Pratt, 6-(-22).
Receiving: Dwayne Dales, 2-28; Steveland Williams Jr., 2-27; Desmond Carriere, 3-24; Claudell McDonald, 1-16; Renwick Doyle, 1-9; Paul Ellsworth, 1-9; Raymond Foreman, 1-5.
Passing: Demond Pratt, 7-20, 65 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; Manuel Armstrong, 4/5, 53 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs; Jamarian Henderson, 0-1, 0 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs.
Rushing: Mahmood Bailey, 11-34, 1 TD; Justin Doyle, 3-7; Kendell Sampson Jr., 7-0.
Receiving: Jaheim Walters, 3-49, 1 TD; Mahmood Bailey, 2-14; August Banks Jr., 1-13; Khi Mathieu, 1-9; Albert Quest V, 2-(-2).
Passing: Kendell Sampson Jr., 9-19, 83 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs.
St. Augustine — Taiwan Berryhill 15 interception return (kick failed), 4:54, 0-6.
St. Augustine — Jaron Marks III 23 field goal, 9:33, 0-9.
St. Augustine — Marks III 30 field goal, 6:30, 0-12.
McDonogh 35 — Desmond Carriere 12 pass from Demond Pratt (David Green kick), 1:16, 7-12.
McDonogh 35 — Steveland Williams Jr. 25 run (kick blocked), 6:38, 13-12.
St. Augustine — Jaheim Walters 7 pass from Kendell Sampson Jr. (run failed), 3:39, 13-18.
St. Augustine — Mahmood Bailey 6 run (kick failed), 2:40, 13-24.
NEXT UP: McDonogh 35 will be back on the field first taking on Karr Thursday at 7 p.m. at Tad Gormley Stadium. St. Augustine will also have its next game at Tad Gormley facing Landry-Walker Saturday at 2:30 p.m.