WILMINGTON – A loss last season at Father Judge may have kept Salesianum out of the Division I state football tournament, so the Sals were sure to come into their game against their brother Oblate school on Sept. 21 not wanting a repeat. They won, but it wasn’t assured until a last-minute interception in the end zone.
Dalton McNabb intercepted a fourth-down pass from the Crusaders’ Shane Dooley with four seconds left on the clock to seal the Sals’ 21-14 victory at Baynard Stadium. It was a game in which the Sals held a 21-7 lead with less than three minutes left.
The Sals had a 14-7 lead when they took possession late in the third quarter. On the first play of the final stanza, quarterback Dylan Mooney faked a handoff and fired a strike to John Healy, who was wide open. Healy reached the end zone on the 28-yard pass for his second touchdown reception of the night. The extra point gave Salesianum a 21-7 lead with 11:54 to go.
The Crusaders fumbled the ball back to Sallies on their next possession, giving the hosts a first down at the Judge 28. The Sals marched down to the 2-yard line when they coughed it up themselves, giving the Crusaders life.
The Crusaders, however, struggled to put anything positive together. An aggressive Sallies defense kept Father Judge pinned in its own territory, and the clock became a factor. Dooley, however, hit Dan Foy on a crossing pass, and Foy broke free for a 60-yard gain to the Salesianum 2. Dooley took it in on the next play, and with 2:29 to go it was 21-14.
Salesianum recovered the onside kick, but on first down, they lost another fumble. Suddenly, the Father Judge sideline sprang to life as the Crusaders took over on the Sals’ 48. A penalty made it first-and-15 from the Judge 47, and a one-yard run brought about second-and-15. Dooley picked up half those yards on a second-down run, and on third down he found Foy across the middle for a first down at the Sale’ 33.
The Crusaders again faced a third down on the drive, but Dooley and Foy connected once more on third-and-10 for a 12-yard gain to the Sals’ 21. After spiking the ball to stop the clock, Dooley threw two incomplete passes before McNabb elicited a collective sigh of relief from the home side of Baynard.
Salesianum began the game with a 40-yard return of the opening kickoff by Andrew Watkins to give the Sals the ball at the Crusaders’ 43. After runs by Watkins and Mooney picked up a total of 20 yards, Watkins took the ball out of the wildcat formation and rambled 21 yards to the 2. Judge stiffened up against the run, but on third and goal, Mooney found Healy in the back of the end zone for a score.
Judge tied the game on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Dooley to Jared Noel. That play capped a 98-yard drive.
Watkins scored the next Salesianum touchdown. He scampered 13 yards to wrap up a 58-yard drive. The key play was a 22-yard run by Jesse Wheatley. Watkins’ touchdown came with just 43 seconds remaining in the half.
The Sals improved to 3-0 on the season. They play their first road game of 2018 next Friday at 7 p.m. at Urbana (Md.). It is the first of four straight away from Baynard Stadium.
Jason Winchell contributed to this article.