NEWARK – St. Mark’s football team won the first game of its season this weekend, but it may be one of the strangest victories the Spartans have ever known. Certainly, new Spartans coach Joe Wright will never forget his first game as the skipper at his alma mater.
When all was said and done, St. Mark’s had rolled a 26-0 shutout on Newark. Getting to that point was not easy. The game began Friday night on the grass at Newark on a hot, sticky night. About 24 and a half hours later, it concluded at Caravel Academy, on artificial turf with the temperature in the high 60s.
No matter the venue, the Spartans were in control of this one. Anthony Poppiti ended Newark’s first offensive drive with an interception that he returned to the Yellow Jackets’ 26-yard line. Quarterback Jelani Bryant found Christian Colmery with a pass to the Newark 10, and on first and goal, T.J. Butler finished the drive with a sprint up the middle. St. Mark’s had the 7-0 lead midway through the first.
Late in the quarter, a Newark drive sputtered deep in its own territory, and the Spartans took over at the Jackets’ 39 following a punt. Butler gained 10 yards on first down, and a few plays later, from the 18, Devon Jones carried to the 4, setting up first and goal. Carter Benham needed just one play to cover that ground, and his touchdown and the point after doubled the St. Mark’s lead.
The teams played on as the focus around the stadium increasingly turned to the impending rain and lightning. St. Mark’s had a few chances to extend its advantage, but mistakes cost the Spartans. A 48-yard touchdown run by Zion Glover was negated by offsetting penalties, including a hold on the Spartans.
The drive continued as Bryant ran for 11 yards and a first down at the Newark 21. Blaec Sanders took a pass for nine more. Bryant ran again, giving his team a first and goal at the 5. On second and goal from the 2, Bryant ran it into the end zone, but an illegal shift wiped out that score.
Facing a second and goal from the 7, a pass fell incomplete. As the Spartans huddled up, and with just 17.9 seconds remaining until halftime, officials saw lightning, and play was stopped. Eventually, the lightning subsided, but heavy rains were on the way, and the game was suspended. It was one of several games similarly affected across the state on Friday.
It resumed Saturday night at Caravel, and the Spartans completed the drive they had started the night before on a six-yard run by Bryanbt, although the extra point was not successful. They added one more score in the fourth quarter, with Benham going in from a yard out, and the defense picked up where it left off to keep the young Yellow Jackets off the board.
The Spartans (1-0) host their home opener next Friday at 7 p.m., welcoming Caravel to campus. Newark, which fell to 0-1, remains home next week to battle Concord. That is also a 7 p.m. kickoff.