NEWTOWN SQUARE >> Episcopal Academy’s offense made things look easy, scoring touchdowns on six of its seven possessions in the first half.
The key wasn’t the Churchmen’s polished quarterback CJ McAnally or their deep backfield, but rather their swarming defense, which set the offense up and in position to score time and again.
EA’s defensive unit forced six turnovers, including a blocked punt and a stop on a fake punt to take down John Carroll High (Md.) 42-14 Friday night.
The Churchmen forced punts on the Patriots’ first two possessions before coming up with a turnover on downs and stopping John Carroll (0-3) inside the red zone. On the Patriots’ next possession, defensive back Isaiah Payton stormed through John Carroll’s punting unit and made a block, which was recovered by Cole Johnson at the 2-yard line.
Backup quarterback Jon’avin Freeman then took off on a touchdown run on the ensuing play to give the Churchmen a 28-0 lead with 10:06 to play in the second quarter. Payton gave credit to his team’s pre-game preparation.
“It’s about everybody focusing their assignments day in and day out,” Payton said.
Later in that quarter, Episcopal’s Alex McLaughlin made another huge play by stopping a fake punt run and setting his offense up at the Patriots’ 22-yard line. McAnally would score on a quarterback draw three plays later.
McLaughlin feels when the defense it making plays like his and Payton’s, there’s not much the opposition can do.
“I think we’re unstoppable when we’re all focused and making plays,” McLaughlin said. “Everybody was grinding and stepping up.”
As a whole, the unit held the Patriots to 165 total yards and nine first downs. The Churchmen’s defensive unit intercepted Patriots quarterback Qadir Ismail, both of which were converted into touchdowns by the offense.
The pressure and ballhawking play applied by the Churchmen caught the attention of John Carroll head coach Keith Rawlings.
“They got good pressure and they’re a very well coached team,” said Rawlings, whose team did score a touchdown until the 8:16 mark of the fourth quarter.
Offensively, Episcopal Academy (3-0) racked up 192 yards on the ground with McAnally and running back Dee Will Barlee both scoring twice, but head coach Todd Fairlie commended his defense for continually setting up the offense in good position to score.
“Most of the drives were short fields and that’s the key,” Fairlie said. “When you can jump on a team early like that, it helps.”