WILMINGTON – From the reaction on the field Friday night, you wouldn’t know that St. Mark’s football season had most likely just ended and Salesianum would be moving on to the state playoffs next weekend.
Jabre Lolley’s third touchdown of the game, a 6-yard run with 42 seconds left, gave the Spartans their first lead of the game, and any hopes of a last-minute Salesianum comeback were dashed when St. Mark’s senior T.J. Yeninas picked up a fumble on the ensuing kickoff and sprinted 25 yards into the end zone, giving the Spartans a 28-17 win in the annual battle Friday night at Baynard Stadium.
As the St. Mark’s players and their fans whooped it up, the stunned Sals and their supporters quietly filed out of the stadium.
St. Mark’s coach John Wilson, drenched in Gatorade, told his players on the field after the game this win would be their legacy for the 2011 season. If they didn’t make the playoffs, “this is the championship right here.” His team finished 6-4.
Lolley said the win is very satisfying for the seniors on the team like him. “We’ve got a lot of seniors on the team leaving, and we just played it like our championship game. Everybody just went all out.”
Lolley was the key player throughout the game for St. Mark’s, particularly in the second half. His block of a Salesianum field goal attempt early in the fourth quarter with the Sals up, 17-7, swung the momentum to St. Mark’s. On the Spartans’ drive following the block, Lolley brought his team within three points on a 29-yard touchdown run.
“Sallies got some momentum in the second half and it really looked like they were getting away with things, but we just battled back,” Coach Wilson said. “That blocked kick really did turn things around for us. That just seemed to put a charge in all of us. Those kinds of things turn the game.”
Salesianum coach Bill DiNardo said St. Mark’s is too good of a team to let hang around. “We had every opportunity to win the ballgame tonight. We should have won the game. We couldn’t find a way to put the game away. We let them hang around, and they’re good enough, and they got a spark, and they were able to make things happen.”
The loss dropped the Sals to 7-3. They are the fifth seed in Division I and travel to Sussex Central in Georgetown for a game Friday night at 7:30 against the fourth-seeded Golden Knights.
St. Mark’s held the Sals after the kickoff and took over at their own 30 with about two minutes left. Quarterback Jeff Ziemba and Lolley went to work. He hit Lolley for 34 yards on one pass. A few plays later, after a sack left St. Mark’s with a third-and-15 from the Salesianum 26, the Spartans received a first down when a Sallies defender was penalized for pass interference on Lolley in the end zone, giving St. Mark’s a first down at the Sals’ 13.
On the next play, Ziemba and Lolley attempted to hook up in the same spot in the end zone, and again Salesianum was flagged for interference, moving the ball to the 6-yard-line. Lolley scored what proved to be the winning TD a play later.
Ziemba threw for more than 300 yards and four touchdowns against St. Elizabeth last week, but he said the Sals did a good job bottling up their passing game all night until the winning drive.
“They started to back off and give us the short stuff,” he said, and he took advantage, hitting several short passes.
If this indeed was the end of the St. Mark’s season, Wilson said it feels pretty good.
“This is a heck of a way to end it. If you can’t win them all, at least you can win this one and it feels just as good,” he said.
Quarterback Troy Reeder and running back Jerome Stanley turned in big performances for the Sals. Stanley had more than 200 yards rushing and a touchdown, and Reeder gained big chunks of yardage on the ground. Dalton Gregory scored the other Salesianum touchdown on a 28-yard run in the third quarter.
DiNardo said his team should put the loss behind them and prepare for the next game. “We’ve just got to get back on the horse Monday.”