They have been ravaged by injuries. They were shut out at home. They lost at home on Senior night. And yet, they are on their way back to the Prep Bowl. The Brother Rice Crusaders successfully defended their Catholic League Championship with an 18-13 win over the pesky Fenwick Friars who put up a valiant effort in hostile territory. With the win, the Crusaders have now won 10 games in three straight seasons.
Austin McDonough got the scoring started with a 21-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and made the score 6-0. Defense was the order of the day as both teams stood tall of the defensive side of the ball. Catholic League Defensive Player of the Year Pat Walsh recorded a sack and five tackles in the first half killing several Friar drives as the Crusaders took their lead of 6-0 into the halftime talk.
But these Friars would not go away easily. QB Brien Rooney was very elusive in the pocket as he was able to buy himself some time and hooked up with receiver Eric Bradley for an 89-yard touchdown to give the Friars a 7-6 lead. The Crusaders offense woke up after that as they completed a 91-yard drive in 10 plays and recaptured the lead at 12-7 heading to the final stanza.
Then things got interesting. The Friars mounted a drive and converted two third downs on this march. But they got to the 1-yard line and as Gary Little Stadium rose to its feet, the Crusaders rose up on defense, stopping the Friars short of the goal line. A penalty pushed the ball back to the six and Pat Walsh and Jim Keaty struck again as they force Rooney into a sack, preserving the 12-7 Crusaders lead.
Unfortunately, that lead was short lived as Austin McDonough coughed up the football on the next posession and Dan Mega made them pay with a 9-yard touchdown run off the left side and a 13-12 Fenwick advantage. The Crusaders decided that enough was enough and showed their mettle and marched right back downfield. This drive included a huge 4th down conversion in Fenwick territory and as the time became right, QB Tim Evans hooked up with Austin McDonough for a 25-yard touchdown completing the scoring at 18-13.
The defense did the rest as Pat Walsh, Joe Gibson, and Jim Keaty led the final stand as the Crusaders punched their ticket to Thanksgiving weekend.