Early in the season, defending Mid-Atlantic Conference champion Flint Hill’s record didn’t make the Huskies look like a team destined for a 2013 repeat. At 1-3 after four games, Flint Hill looked vulnerable, perhaps not quite as dominating as during their championship year, and that left other MAC teams like last year's runner up the Potomac School (7-2, 3-1) and Sidwell Friends (5-3, 2-2) hoping they could knock the Huskies from the top.
But those three losses had come against the league’s toughest non-conference schedule, a slate of games Flint Hill Coach Tom Verbanic scheduled to challenge his team in preparation for the MAC schedule and, hopefully, the state tournament that would follow if his Huskies got that far.
The plan worked, as the Huskies (6-3, 4-0) cruised through MAC play and Saturday clinched both a second straight MAC title and a berth in the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Division I playoffs with a 48-15 win over Sidwell Friends.
“Any time you can win a championship that’s a good thing. It’s something our kids worked really hard for,” said Verbanic, whose team won its four MAC games by an average of 29 points each. “Even though we went through a stretch of games where we didn’t play as well as we would’ve hoped, I think it means we hung in there pretty well and just kept getting better.”
The Huskies now move on to the semifinals of the VISAA tournament this weekend, when they’ll take on the Collegiate School in Richmond, a team that beat them 30-7 in the regular season.
While some might argue that Sunday’s Washington Catholic Athletic Conference semifinal contest between Gonzaga and St. John’s is the one that matters most, the 4,000-plus fans who gathered at Montgomery Blair last Saturday for the rivals’ 83rd regular-season matchup helped ensure that the contest took on a playoff-like feel.
With both offenses sputtering, the Cadets ultimately relied on their defense to recover a fumble and make goal-line stand in the second half that sealed a 17-10 win against the Eagles.
A day after receiving his Under Armour All-America jersey, Cadets senior and Maryland recruit Will Ulmer sparked his team with a 53-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter.
Gonzaga’s attempts to respond were hindered by the absence of quarterback Nick Johns and wide receiver Jabari Greenwood, who were both sidelined by injury. It wasn’t until the third quarter that the Eagles put together a long drive, ending in a 1-yard touchdown run by quarterback James Orfini.
Gonzaga forced a punt and threatened to take its first lead, but the Eagles muffed the catch and Tyler Strycharz pounced on the ball in the end zone to push St. John’s back ahead, 17-10.
The Eagles threatened a late rally when Reggie Corbin broke off a long run up the middle and into Cadet territory. The junior tailback wasn’t so successful a few plays later, as St. John’s defense stuffed Corbin at the 1-yard line on fourth down to snap a three-game losing streak in the series.
The two teams will meet again Sunday at 12:30 p.m. at Byrd Stadium with a trip to the WCAC final on the line.
Perry Street Prep (7-3, 6-2) turned in a statement win against Avalon (5-5, 2-2) in the Capital Area Football Conference semifinals, beating the Black Knights 50-20 in a rematch of a game the Pride lost 34-14 in the regular season.
“I was shocked at the 30-point margin of victory,” said Riverdale Baptist Coach Bob Shields, whose Crusaders (10-0, 6-0) will play Perry Street in the CAFC championship this weekend after a 20-0 win over Cesar Chavez (4-6, 2-4) Friday. “What that means to me is [Perry Street Coach] Eric Knight, who’s been around this business for 30, 40 years, has that team ready to play at the right time. For them to beat Avalon the way they did. . . we’re in for a dogfight.”
The Pride racked up 467 yards rushing in the win, 282 of them on just 12 carries by running back Morris Ray, who scored three touchdowns in the win. Fellow back Keenan Westry also averaged over 10 yards per carry Friday, rushing for 187 yards and scoring three touchdowns of his own.