Two minutes into his team’s game at Bullis Friday night, heralded St. John’s senior quarterback Will Ulmer made a glaring mistake, tossing a pass into the hands of Bulldogs defender Kyven Jones to end a promising drive after a 21-yard completion on the previous play. But Cadets defensive back Kenneth Brooks rendered the error harmless two plays later when he intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown for the game’s opening score.
Ulmer — a future Maryland Terrapin — barely erred again, rushing for 105 yards and three touchdowns while also completing six of eight passes in 24 minutes of action as he led the Cadets to a 42-0 win.
Two of Ulmer’s touchdowns came on runs of 27 yards or more, plays in which he appeared in complete control of the game and its pace. On multiple occasions, the 6-foot-1, 182-pound senior took the snap, paused, stood tall and surveyed the defense before blowing by any and all Bullis defenders with a quick first step and even quicker strides up the field.
“Everyone notices [Ulmer’s] speed, but he also has a lot of strength,” St. John’s Coach Joe Patterson said. “He’s able to make plays happen.”
Ulmer did just that on his first touchdown run of the day, rocketing out of the pocket toward the right sideline where he encountered a few Bullis tacklers in position to wrap him up. But he seemingly found an extra gear to make one miss, then pushed aside another as he sprinted up the sideline and into the end zone with a 27-yard run.
“He’s kind of goofy in a way, so that’s how he makes people miss,” said Ulmer’s teammate, Iowa-bound cornerback Omar Truitt. “It’s crazy the stuff he can do out there.”
The play of the game, however, came via Ulmer’s arm on a slightly overthrown ball down the right sideline to junior wide receiver William Jackson. Jackson leaped into a fully extended dive and — depending on whether you listened to the officials or the adamant Bullis cheering section — hauled the ball into his chest just before hitting the ground at the 15-yard line. Despite the Bullis sideline’s argument to the contrary, the play was ruled a 30-yard completion and set up a one-yard touchdown run from Ulmer that put the Cadets (2-0) up 35-0 at the half.
The Cadets also turned defense into offense in the rout. After Brooks’s interception-turned-touchdown in the first quarter, his classmate, Nigel Rowser, did him a few yards better late in the third, snagging a similarly deflected pass and charging 74 yards for the Cadets’ final score of the game.
“St. John’s, we’re known for our defense. We had to put that back on the map,” Truitt said. “Last year, we struggled a little, but this year, we’re intense, we’re physical, and we’re aggressive all around.”
If Bullis (0-1), a perennial Interstate Athletic Conference power, had hopes of proving it could hold its own against a top-tier Washington Catholic Athletic Conference squad, those hopes grew slim long before Friday night’s kickoff, as the Bulldogs were already without highly-recruited running back Devonte Williams, who was recovering from emergency surgery but is expected to be back next week.
Fellow starters David McLaurin (torn ACL) and Jonathan Holland (hip) also suffered injuries leading up to the opener. Williams’s backup, the versatile Jones, separated his shoulder on the first play of the game, though he pushed through for 35 yards on nine carries before sitting in the second half.
“We lost to a good football team, but it hurts when you’re a small school and you have starters out,” Bullis Coach Pat Cilento said. “At one point we had a freshman in the backfield. We have to regroup and get better. There’s only one way to go after tonight: better.”