Home Local Sports Salesianum struggles with Episcopal running attack in 21-7 gridiron setback

Salesianum struggles with Episcopal running attack in 21-7 gridiron setback

Liam Mara reaches the end zone with Salesianums lone score against Episcopal. The Dialog/Mike Lang

BEAR — Episcopal Academy used a strong running game, and Salesianum could muster little on offense as the Churchmen defeated the Sals, 21-7, on Oct. 4 at Bob Peoples Stadium at Caravel Academy. It was the Sals’ second straight loss after opening the season with three wins.

It was a game where yardage came almost exclusively on the ground. When it mattered most, the Churchmen were able to pick up the yardage needed to extend drives, and all three of their touchdowns came on running plays.

Marcus McDainel of Episcopal Academy races away from a Salesianum defender. (The Dialog/Mike Lang)

Behind the three-headed running attack of quarterback Marcus McDaniel and running backs Matt Bush and Malcolm Folk, Episcopal got into Sallies territory when the first quarter ended. The Sals’ defense toughened, however, and forced a punt a few plays into the second.

A three-and-out from the Sals gave the ball back to the Churchmen at their own 21 with 8:43 left before halftime. They went on a 79-yard drive, chewing more than seven minutes off the clock before taking a 6-0 lead.

McDaniel, playing quarterback but often acting as a runner, began the drive with a 12-yard scamper. Folk converted on a third down that took the ball to the Salesianum 49. Episcopal faced another third down, this one at the Sals’ 35 with seven yards to go for a first down, and McDaniel found Bush for a 13-yard gain. Several running plays later, McDaniel followed the right side of his line into the end zone with 1:38 left until half. After a missed point-after touchdown, the score was 6-0, which it remained at halftime.

The Sals began the second half with possession and put together a nice drive, although it ended without any points. Andrew Watkins, back after missing the previous two games with an injury, teamed with Liam Mara to moved the ball down the field. Watkins got help from Carmine Poppiti on one play. Running from the Salesianum 42, Watkins gained about eight yards before he was hit and lost the football. The ball bounced, and Poppiti caught it while on a dead run, and he reached the Episcopal 35-yard line. The drive stalled from there, however, and a fourth-down pass fell incomplete.

The Churchmen took over at their own 27 this time, with 7:48 remaining in the third quarter. Again, they methodically pounded the ball into the Sals’ defense.

Bush began the 12-play drive with a 10-yard run. After a holding penalty, McDaniel juked around two defenders during a 16-yard gain. Folk and Bush took turns running the ball after that. Episcopal faced a third-and-8 at the Sals’ 27, and a McDaniel pass fell incomplete, but a pass interference call gave the Churchmen a first down at the Sals’ 14. Bush carried for eight, and McDaniel went the final six. A two-point conversion made it 14-0. The drive milked nearly six minutes off the clock.

After a Sallies three-and-out, Episcopal began its next drive at its own 25. The big play of the drive, which ran into the fourth quarter, was a pass from McDaniel intended for Bush on a second-and-9 from the EA 41. The ball went through Bush’s hands and right into the chest of Joe Graham, who continued to the Sals’ 35. Bush and McDaniel combined for six carries and 30 yards before Folk ended the drive with a touchdown run of five yards. This time, the drive took five minutes.

The Sals got on the board on their next possession. The six-play drive included three Mara runs and three passes from Dylan Mooney. The key plays were a 14-yard run by Mara to the Churchmen 34-yard line, and the next one, a 30-yard completion to Rasheen Caulk. Mara bulled his way in from the 4 with 4:48 left on the clock, but Episcopal drained the clock once they recovered an onsides kick.

The Sals (3-2) look to return to the win column next Saturday at Mastery Charter. The game will be played at Mastery’s Shoemaker campus in Philadelphia at 3 p.m.