Safety first: Baptist edges Ford in defensive struggle

Derelle Hunter is the leading rusher in the entire CHSFL and has carried St. John the Baptist in the opening month of the season.

But on Sunday, a big and physical Bishop Ford defense kept the senior running back in check in the first half and the Cougars needed another hero to emerge in a tight, scoreless game.

Enter Chris McCarthy. The senior linebacker sacked Ford quarterback Xaviah Mattocks in the end zone for a safety midway through the third quarter. It was the game’s pivotal moment.

“We were looking for a play,” Baptist coach Keith Schweers said. “Usually it’s our offense even though our defense has been phenomenal stopping everything. Nothing changes the momentum of a game like a safety from a 0-0 game. That ignited everybody. We needed that and it couldn’t have come at a better time.”

Hunter tacked on a pair of second-half touchdowns as St. John the Baptist defeated Bishop Ford, 15-0, in front of a standing room only Homecoming crowd of nearly 2,400 in West Islip, L.I.

“Even though it was just two points, the pressure lessened on the offense,” Schweers said. “Emotionally a safety plays a lot on the opposing team, as well. All credit goes to the defense there.”

Facing a 3rd-and-10 from his own 4-yard line, Mattocks dropped back in the end zone to pass. As was the case for much of the game, the Cougars swarmed and McCarthy, along with Tyler Slack dropped the sophomore quarterback in the end zone to give St. John the Baptist (2-3, 2-2 CHSFL AA-A) a 2-0 lead with 6:43 left in the third quarter.

“We figured they were going to pass,” McCarthy said. “They did a bootleg and everybody did their job and I just came free. That was the momentum changer. After that, we knew we were at our best and we were going to win this game.”

It was a devastating blow for a young Bishop Ford squad, most of whom play on both sides of the ball.

“That destroyed us,” Bishop Ford coach Jim Esposito said. “We’re missing blocks at key times, defensive linemen are crossing in front of our faces. That was from the backside.”

Hunter, who was held to 69 yards in the opening half, exploded from there. He accounted for all but five yards on a 5-play, 40-yard drive that he capped with a 3-yard TD with 4:07 left in the third. Hunter, who finished with 213 yards on 29 carries, iced the game with a 26-yard touchdown run with 2:29 left in the fourth quarter.

“Their front line did a good job keeping me down,” said Hunter, who now has 1,097 total yards and eight touchdowns in five games. “I guess they just studied the film and saw my weakness and strength. I knew I had to break out some way. I couldn’t lose on Homecoming with all these fans.”

Bishop Ford (1-4, 0-4), which took a step forward offensively last week in a 22-14 loss to Christ the King, took two steps backward against the Cougars.

“I’m confident with our defense,” junior running back/cornerback Devon Mitchell said. “I was very, very happy with how we played. I have nothing negative to say about our defense. It’s up to the offense. If we had scored, it would have been a different game.”

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