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Eagles, referees too much for St. Mary’s to handle

By Jared Green,Daily Planet Staff
Saturday October 20, 2001

Harsh calls and clutch drive give Kennedy 35-30 win 


For quite a while on Friday afternoon, it looked as if the St. Mary’s football team had two opponents on the field at Kennedy High: the Eagles and the officials. 

The game was a good one, with the lead changing hands four times in the second half and spectacular plays on both sides of the ball. But what could have been a rousing win for the Panthers turned into a questionable 35-30 win for Kennedy when some terrible calls turned the game in the Eagles’ favor. 

With the Panthers up 30-29 in the fourth quarter, Kennedy’s Jamyah Fisher caught a short pass over the middle and fumbled the ball, with St. Mary’s recovering. But after some discussion among themselves, the officials ruled that Fisher’s forward progress had been stopped prior to the fumble and gave the ball back to the Eagles, saying that although a whistle had not blown before the ball came out, the play was dead at that point. 

Later in the quarter, St. Mary’s safety Trestin George appeared to break up a fourth-down pass that would have sealed the game for the Panthers. But once again, an officials’ conference resulted in a break for the Eagles, as George was called for pass interference. The resulting first down extended the drive that became the winning score for Kennedy. 

The Eagles, it must be said, took advantage of the breaks, as good teams do. On a 4th-and-1 on the St. Mary’s 39, Kennedy quarterback Ricky Duffy broke a sneak for 31 yards, putting the ball inside the 10. One play later, Joe Washington ran a reverse in for the winning touchdown. 

“I just took off and kept going,” Duffy said of his game-breaking run. “I just didn’t want to be tackled.” 

The Eagles won the game despite being being outgained on offense, 419-202. Penalties and special teams play, however, negated the St. Mary’s advantage, as several promising drives into Kennedy territory were rebuffed by flags on the Panthers. Throw in an 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Fisher that tied the score at 22-22 late in the third quarter, and the picture gets a little clearer. 

“The first half we had a lot of penalties and missed opportunities,” St. Mary’s head coach Jay Lawson said. “Then the game turned into a track meet for a while.” 

Lawson restrained himself when commenting on the officials, although he and his fellow coaches made their thoughts clear during the game. 

“You never want to blame officials for a loss, but they killed three of our drives,” Lawson said. “But that’s what happens on the road. You’re just not going to get the calls.” 

The Panthers took their last lead at the end of the third quarter, as quarterback Steve Murphyspun out of a potential sack and found wide receiver Ryan Coogler open behind the defense. Coogler gained 64 yards on the play, and Murphy scored on a 3-yard keeper on the following play. George pounded a two-point conversion in to put the Panthers up 30-29. 

George had his usual stellar day on offense, picking up 178 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Coogler had 137 receiving yards, including a 67-yard touchdown catch-and-run to put his team up 15-0 in the second quarter.  

The Panthers had a lead at 22-15 after George’s 20-yard touchdown run, keyed by a nice downfield block by wideout Courtney Brown. But after Fisher’s big touchdown return, Murphy threw an interception when his arm was hit as he threw, and Duffy found Alan Drummond on a play-action pass on the next play for an 18-yard score and a 29-22 lead. 

Murphy threw for two scores in the first half and had 198 yards on the day, a number which could have been bigger. But a 31-yard pass to Chase Moore on the opening drive was called back for offensive pass interference, with the Eagles somehow getting both the yards for the penalty and the turnover on downs, the first of many calls that brought a furor on the officials’ heads from the St. Mary’s sideline.