Last week was an open date for Father Ryan, a bit early for most coaches’ liking, and Irish head coach Brian Rector wondered if it would adversely affect his team once it returned to the field.
Spoiler alert: It did not.
Not only did the Irish rack up more than 400 yards of total offense in the first half, they did something no other team has done in 11 years – activate the mercy rule running clock against Brentwood Academy. Friday’s 56-21 final was the most lopsided loss for the Eagle program since a 45-7 loss to Trinity (Ky.) on Aug. 19, 2011.
Father Ryan’s offense had found full steam Friday, and with conductor JoJo Crump at the controls, the Irish faced little resistance in reaching the endzone eight times.
“I’m so high off life right now,” Crump said. “I love this game. The whole message this week was ‘believe.’”
Defense helped win the first-half tug-of-war
But the train may have gotten the biggest boost from its defense, which stuffed the Eagles at the 1-yard line on fourth-and-goal late in the first half as Brentwood Academy attempted to match scores for the fourth time.
The next 99 yards Father Ryan covered on the ensuing possession – 64 of which were from Crump’s keeper for the second of his three rushing scores – allowed the Irish to pull away for good before the half.
Brentwood Academy’s offense did not threaten again until late in the fourth, when Allen Bryan stepped in front of a George MacIntyre pass and returned it 100 yards for an apparent touchdown, only to have it negated due to a block in the back.
“(I’m proud) for our guys playing that way and doing it for four quarters, because we hadn’t played a full four-quarter game yet,” Rector said. “I’m obviously really proud of that, against a quality opponent nonetheless.”
Crump threw for four scores and ran for three more. He missed out on another rushing touchdown when the ball was knocked out of his hands in the third quarter. The Irish got the right bounce, however, as Caiden Anku corralled the carom near the goal line and scored himself.
That score put Father Ryan up 42-21 and it didn’t take them long to get the ball back as they pounced on a fumble on the ensuing kickoff. Less than a minute later, Crump connected with Charlie Becker for a third touchdown, and the rout was on. Becker caught five passes for 129 yards and three scores.
“I thought their preparation was really good this week,” Rector said. “They were super-focused and most importantly they believed, which is important to me.”
Mason Bryant collected Crump’s other touchdown pass, a screen that ended up covering 79 yards. Bryant also ran for 137 yards on 23 carries to help supplement the offense.
Putting 2022 far behind them
It’s largely the same cast of characters from last year’s 2-9 team that at times put up impressive numbers on the scoreboard, only to have opponents outscore them (the Irish dropped four games by seven or fewer points in 2022). Their preparation for the moment had been months in the making, and now the program is off to its best start since 2007.
“That all happened in November – it didn’t happen Monday at practice, Tuesday at practice, it happened in November,” Crump said. “We decided to make that decision to be here. We’ve been on the bad side of it for a few years now, but we’re to say that the history’s gone. This is the future. This is the present.”
The Irish were off last week following two lopsided wins over Overton and Pope Prep, but those two teams had been outscored by a combined 275-43 through three weeks before both finally found the win column Friday. This was Father Ryan’s first real test of the season, and the Irish passed it impressively.
“I was a little worried that not playing in Week 3 would have us physically not ready to go four quarters here in Week 4,” Rector said. “But I think now looking back at after the game, it probably helped us a little bit.”
Father Ryan gets its two toughest region tests at home in back-to-back weeks when MUS (Sept. 29) and Ensworth (Oct. 6) visit, and wins in both would set them up as the potential top seed in the West Region for the Division II-AAA playoffs.
And if Friday’s win is any indication, there’s more where that came from.
“Don’t all go against us again because we’re coming,” Crump said. “We’re coming.”