Top-seeded Rummel entered Friday night’s Division I semifinal game against No. 4 Brother Martin as the favorite by many accounts, and proved the prognosticators correct in a fairly convincing, 37-27, victory at Joe Yenni Stadium.
The Raiders were dominant through the first three quarters and change building a 37-7 before Brother Martin mounted a late comeback that included touchdowns on their last three possessions of the game.
The 30-point deficit proved to be too much to overcome, though, as Rummel punched its ticket to the Division I title game for the first time since 2015. The still-undefeated Raiders are set to face another unbeaten squad in No. 2 Catholic-B.R., which took down No. 3 John Curtis, 14-0, in the other half of the Division I bracket.
“It’s surreal and it doesn’t feel like (we’re going to the state championship) right now,” said junior Kyle Wickersham, who completed 11-of-14 passes for 215 yards with a touchdown. “It feels like we just played a regular game, but I guess that’s a good thing that we didn’t let the pressure get to us tonight.”
The Raiders (12-0) were a composed bunch from the start taking 8 minutes and 50 seconds off the clock on a 15-play, 80-yard drive on the opening possession of the game. Junior running back Logan Diggs did the honors with a 2-yard touchdown run for the first score of the game, then senior Patrick Vanderbrook added a 43-yard field goal on the following possession before Brother Martin came up with a huge play.
It looked like Rummel was well on its way to picking up another score marching inside Brother Martin’s 25-yard line, but senior Crusaders (9-3) senior Nicholas Turner stepped in front of a pass brining it back 96 yards for a touchdown to give Brother Martin some life.
The score pulled the visitors within 10-7 with 6:54 left in the second quarter, but Rummel took complete control of the second and third quarters to put the game out of reach.
The Raiders ripped off 27 straight points that included a 2-yard touchdown run by Jaelen Sturgis and a 20-yard scoring connection from Wickersham to LSU commitment Koy Moore. Those two plays gave Rummel a 23-7 advantage going into halftime, and the scores were sandwiched around a forced fumble by Rummel’s Quinton Cage that was scooped up by junior Kolbe Fields.
It was one of a handful of big plays for the Rummel defense, which was determined to right last week’s wrong after surrendering 34 points to No. 8 St. Augustine.
“We were just trying to refocus from last week after what happened,” said senior Jordon Williams, who wreaked havoc in the Brother Martin backfield for much of the night with two sacks and four quarterback pressures. “We just wanted to show that it was a fluke and that we’re back in business now.”
It was one of the more complete games on both sides of the ball for the Raiders as they essentially put the game away with a 1-yard touchdown run by Sturgis midway through the third before another scoring run from 15 yards out by the senior early in the fourth for a 37-7 lead.
The offense covered 80, 54, 80, 20, 84 and 37 yards on its six scoring drives and struck for 12 plays of 10 yards or more. Their success coupled with a defensive shutout through three quarters allowed a handful of Rummel defenders to get some rest during the fourth period, which provided Brother Martin with the chance it needed to mount a late comeback.
The 21-point run was ignited by a 48-yard completion from sophomore quarterback Garrett Mmahat to sophomore receiver Austin Jackson on a deep throw down the middle of the field. Joe Delaney followed with a 14-yard catch on the next play, and Mmahat finished off the drive with an 11-yard scamper cutting the deficit to 37-14 with 9:25 to go in the game.
The Crusaders then forced a 3-and-out before Jackson came up with an amazing one-handed catch down the left sideline on the second play of the ensuing drive for 31 yards. Rummel brought a few more starters back in forcing a fourth down, but senior receiver John Louis found some room over the middle for a 26-yard touchdown with 4:34 remaining.
“I think both sides battled, we just struggled early on and got things started too late,” Brother Martin coach Mark Bonis said. “But I am proud of our guys for their season and most importantly we talk about finishing, and they came out and battled until the very end of the game. It says a lot about them and their character.”
The Crusaders’ momentum continued with an onside recovery by sophomore Austin Roberts, then Jackson delivered with another 36-yard catch to get the Crusaders into the red zone. They were forced into fourth down again and were nearly intercepted in the end zone, but the ball ricocheted off of Rummel defensive back Sean Grimes’ hands and into the arms of Crusaders tight end Logan Farrell for a touchdown.
That sliced Rummel’s lead to 37-27 after a failed two-point conversion, but Brother Martin’s magic ran out as the Raiders picked up a first down on the ensuing possession to salt away the clock.
“I took my foot off the gas a little bit at the end and got some guys in the game,” Rummel coach Nick Monica admitted. “It really ruined a good defensive performance because I thought we played really, really well on defense for 3 1/2 quarters. But we’ll enjoy this one and get ready for next week.”
The Raiders’ Division I title meeting against Catholic-B.R. (12-0) will likely take place at Yulman Stadium in what will be the first season of the select championships being played outside of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Rummel will have a chance to capture its first title since going back-to-back in 2012 and 2013 while Brother Martin will reflect on a sensational season led by a handful of impact seniors including Turner, running back Chris Smith and athlete Davonn Moore.
“It was a special class and I’ll get choked up a good bit talking about them,” Bonis said. “They’re all special in their own way and I love this class. They battled and they’re only a class of 16, but I love each and every one of them for everything they’ve done for us. We’re very appreciative of them and their families…we’re going to miss them and they definitely continued a great tradition of our football program.”
Brother Martin: 273 yards of total offense (51 rushing, 222 passing)
Rummel: 389 yards of total offense (174 rushing, 215 passing)
Rushing: Garrett Mmahat, 10-34 (includes 3 sacks for -25 yards), 1 TD; Jaylon Spears, 7-17; Chris Smith, 6-10; John Louis, 1-0; Isaiah Torregano, 1-(-10).
Receiving: Austin Jackson, 5-137; John Louis, 1-26; Jaylon Spears, 2-21; Joe Delaney, 1-14; Chris Smith, 1-12; Isaiah Torregano, 1-8; Logan Farrell, 1-4, 1 TD; Jahron Manning, 1-0.
Passing: Garrett Mmahat, 13-23, 222 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs.
Rushing: Jaelen Sturgis, 11-73, 3 TDs; Logan Diggs, 13-67, 1 TD; Kyle Wickersham, 12-25 (includes 1 sack for -7 yards and 1 fumble recovery for -9 yards on an early snap); Daniel Sabido, 3-9.
Receiving: Ivory Wilright IV, 3-92; Koy Moore, 5-67, 1 TD; Logan Diggs, 2-46; Tyler Cook, 1-10.
Passing: Kyle Wickersham, 11-14, 215 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT.
Rummel — Logan Diggs 2 run (Patrick Vanderbrook kick), 3:10, 0-7.
Rummel — Vanderbrook 43 kick, 11:02, 0-10.
Brother Martin — Nicholas Turner 96 interception return (Jack Landry kick), 6:54, 7-10.
Rummel — Jaelen Sturgis 2 run (kick blocked), 2:15, 7-16.
Rummel — Koy Moore 20 pass from Kyle Wickersham (Vanderbrook kick), 1:54, 7-23.
Rummel — Sturgis 1 run (Vanderbrook kick), 3:32, 7-30.
Rummel — Sturgis 15 run (Vanderbrook kick), 11:51, 7-37.
Brother Martin — Garrett Mmahat 11 run (Landry kick), 9:25, 14-37.
Brother Martin — John Louis 26 pass from Mmahat (Landry kick), 4:34, 21-37.
Brother Martin — Logan Farrell 4 pass from Mmahat (pass failed), 2:26, 27-37.
NEXT UP: Rummel will take on No. 2 Catholic-B.R. in next week’s Division I title game, which will likely be played Friday at Yulman Stadium. Catholic-B.R. beat No. 3 John Curtis, 14-0, Friday night at Olympia Stadium.