One running back piling up yards the St. Mary’s High defense was able to handle. Two running backs piling up yards the defense was almost too much for the Panthers to handle.
Oakland Tech High’s Marshawn Lynch rushed for a 146 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries in the first half, then gave way to backup Virdell Larkins. Larkins rushed for 100 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries in the second half for Oakland Tech, which scored 20 unanswered points over the final nine minutes to tie St. Mary’s 32-32.
“Oakland Tech has some outsanding athletes that can score anytime they touch the ball and they never gave up,” said St. Mary’s head coach Jay Lawson, who said his team played their best game of the year.
The Panthers (1-3-1) came close to losing the game when the Bulldogs prepared for an extra point to break the tie with 2:50 left in regulation. It took a meeting of three referees, who did not make a signal immediately after the kick, to decide that the extra point sailed wide.
St. Mary’s senior Ryan Coogler said his stomach was in knots as the referees huddled to decide the fate of the game.
“I had outside containment so I had a good view. It might have been good,” Coogler said. “One (referee) said that he thought it was no good and the other two said they had a bad angle.”
St. Mary’s capatilized on Oakland Tech’s mistakes throughout, controlling most of the game as they built 32-12 lead. A Bulldogs mishandled punt and two interceptions led to 17 points for the Panthers.
Coogler had one of his team’s interceptions and a 49-yard touchdown catch two plays after Oakland Tech (3-1-1) attemped an onside kick to open the second half.
“They tried to follow me with their best athlete [Lynch], but anytime there is bump and run and no safety they know to look for me,” Coogler said.
The touchdown pass to Coogler was one of two from senior quarterback Steve Murphy, who played all but five snaps behind center. Lawson said the two series he substituted sophomore Scott Tully in was because he wanted “to give a different look. They put guys off the ball and on our receivers and so we wanted to run the ball.” Tully has been splitting time with Murphy this season in an effort to jumpstart the St. Mary’s offense, but Murphy was excellent on Friday night, completing 5-of-10 passes for 152 yards. His first touchdown pass was a 12-yarder to Will Reid.
Murphy, who led the Panthers to a Bay Shore Athletic League title last season, echoed the sentiments of other players on the team that the tie was a moral victory.
“We tried to make a statement. Nobody expected us to get this,” Murphy said. “We should have came away victorious though.”
St. Mary’s got rushing touchdowns from Fred Hives and Chris White in the first half to build their lead.
The Panthers open BSAL play next Saturday at home against Kennedy. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.