For St. Albans, it came down to a game of pass-and-catch in the fourth quarter. Junior quarterback Tad Bardenwerper threw the passes, senior wide receiver Jess McIntosh made the catches, and the host Bulldogs turned back Episcopal, 16-6, for their third straight win in the Interscholastic Athletic Conference opener for both teams.
The Bardenwerper-McIntosh combination effectively put the Maroon away in the fourth, connecting twice for key hookups, the second of which went for a 24-yard score on third and 14. The win avenged a 56-0 loss to Episcopal last season and matched the IAC win total for St. Albans each of the previous two years.
The scoring play came when McIntosh perfectly timed his leap over the Episcopal defender, pulling the ball in to put St. Albans up, 15-6. Place kicker Joe Elliott converted the extra point.
"I tried to get in front of the [defender]. I jumped and the ball landed in my hand," McIntosh said. "It was a well-thrown pass."
The score was set up by safety Ray June's interception of Episcopal quarterback Paxton Griffin at the Episcopal 30-yard line. Bardenwerper found McIntosh for 10 yards to move the ball to the 20, then two plays later, found him again in the end zone.
The teams entered the fourth quarter tied at 6. Elliot then capped a 79-yard drive with a 30-yard field goal. The Bulldogs (3-2) mixed up their attack on the drive, moving effectively with the running of Gabriel Somarriba (21 carries, 91 yards) and passing of Bardenwerper (10 of 13 for 151).
"We couldn't put it in the end zone," said Griffin, a junior who shared the quarterback duties during the game with junior Bo Richardson. "We had a couple of costly turnovers and didn't come through when we needed to."
On its first drive of the second half, Episcopal (2-2) picked up three consecutive first downs, powered mostly by running back Grant Brown. Brown finished with 71 yards, 27 of which came on three carries during that drive. Griffin then found Campbell Henry with a 10-yard strike, only to have St. Albans linebacker Pat Poats force a fumble that the Bulldogs were able to recover.
"The fumble was huge for us," said St. Albans Coach Doug Boswell. "[Episcopal] is always well-coached and scrappers."
Episcopal fared better on its next possession, moving 64 yards for the tying score. Griffin scored on a quarterback sneak from the 1.
"Overall, we have a very good defense," said Maroon linebacker Immanuel Jones, who had two sacks. "We made some mistakes, but we'll bounce back from this loss. We have a young team that learns fast from its mistakes."