For St. Albans, it was nothing like defeating Landon. For St. John's, it was nothing like losing to Gonzaga. However, for all its drama and emotion, this contest -- believed to be the first ever between the Interstate Athletic Conference Bulldogs and the Metro Conference Cadets -- might just as well have been the annual renewal of a traditional rivalry.
In a football game with enough heroes, near-heroes and near-goats for maybe two or three games, St. Albans opened its season with a 19-17 non-league victory over St. John's yesterday at St. Albans.
"Definitely not as big a game as Landon, but it still doesn't get much tougher than this," said sophomore Larry Holmes, whose high punt snap in the second quarter led to a fumble recovery in the end zone that gave St. John's (2-1) a 14-7 lead, but whose 67-yard run later gave St. Albans a 19-17 lead. Holmes finished with 97 yards rushing on 10 carries and two touchdowns.
"No, nothing like Gonzaga," said St. John's Coach John Ricca. "But it was still a big game."
That latter sentiment was most clearly reflected in the blank stare and somber voice of Cadets kicker Nick Jenkins. His 36-yard field goal attempt through a downpour with 4:16 to play in the game was just wide left. And his 52-yard attempt in calmer weather with 49 seconds to play was long enough, high enough, but wide right. "I've kicked 'em 55 yards in practice," the senior said. "But the last one didn't bother me. It was the shorter one."
Both were set up by sequences that first involved St. Albans cornerback Nathan Smith, then involved defensive end John Morrall.
Facing a fourth down and three from the Bulldogs' 39, St. John's quarterback Tom Mullikin -- whose bad option pitch set up a St. Albans touchdown that made it 14-13 -- floated a 25-yard pass just beyond a diving Smith, into the hands of a diving Erik Patla. However, on second and 10 from the 14, Mullikin was sacked by Morrall for a four-yard loss and a run by Derrick Heggans gained nothing.
St. John's forced St. Albans to punt after three plays, then moved quickly to the Bulldogs 27. On a second and 10 with 1:30 remaining, Mullikin threw to Gus Paul, but Smith's dive was perfect. On third down, Morrall flushed Mullikin out of the pocket and into the arms of Mike Harman, whose sack moved the ball back to the 35 and Jenkins back out onto the field. St. John's (2-1) 7 10 0 0 17 St. Albans (1-0) 7 12 0 0 19
SJ -- Heggans 2 run (N. Jenkins kick)
SA -- Holmes 7 run (Glenn kick)
SJ -- Williams recovered fumble in end zone (N. Jenkins kick)
SA -- Jackson 3 run (run failed)
SJ -- FG N. Jenkins 25
SA -- Holmes 67 run (kick failed)