For two quarters, the Archbishop Carroll football Patriots played about as well as they could have hoped.
They went into the half Friday night up 18-14 over La Salle, on the strength of having forced Explorer quarterback Tommy LaMorte to throw four interceptions and fumble a ball that Greg Natale took back 85 yards for six.
The problem for the Pats was that a football game lasts four quarters, and the Explorers took full advantage. Four quick, third-quarter La Salle scores put 25 points on the board (three touchdowns and a field goal) and swung the game into Explorer favor for good in Carroll’s 46-18 loss.
“We have to learn how to finish,” said Dan Connor, Carroll’s first-year head coach. “I’ve said it to the guys.”
“We’ve done a better job each game of the season,” he went on. “We hold on longer and longer. In the first game, it was in the middle of the first quarter. In the past couple games, it’s moved forward.”
“In this one, we put a whole half together,” he said. “I told them ‘We can compete with the best in the state. We proved it in the first half. Now we have to put a complete game together’—and that’s going to be the hard part.”
Senior quarterback Steve Honick slung the ball for two scores in the first half—Carroll’s only points outside of the Natale fumble return—one each to Ryan Graham and Khadir Roberts for two and 10 yards, respectively.
La Salle’s points came on a 20-yard dart by lead back Syaire Madden and an eight-yard run by sophomore Manny Quiles—more on him later—but otherwise, La Salle struggled to do much of anything.
“We fell asleep in the second quarter,” said Explorer head coach John Steinmetz.
By the third quarter, they were awake. A 45-yard slash by Trey Holland set up Mike Wells’ 33-yard field goal on the half’s opening drive, and Quiles dashed 50 yards for six on the Explorers’ next play following a Carroll three-and-out. Quiles scored again on a 13-yard run in the next Explorer drive, and by the time Joey Burnham punched in a one-yarder two possessions later, the game was La Salle’s to lose.
“We called a reverse (on Holland’s) run, and that gave us a little life to start the half,” Steinmetz said. “But we’ve got to play four quarters. If you want to beat teams in our league, you have to play the whole game. That’s the biggest thing.”
Quiles scored again on a 36-yarder in the fourth to cap his monster day and his team’s scoring. After Madden went down early with a minor shoulder injury, Quiles carried the ball 17 times for 164 yards and four touchdowns.
His performance likely won’t force a strict timeshare with Madden upon the senior back’s return, but at the very least, should give Steinmetz some confidence if he needs to spell his first-stringer.
“We’re really excited about (Manny),” Steinmetz said. “He’s great.”
For Carroll, Honick threw for 188 yards—82 of which went to Dahmir Ruffin (the team lead)—on 14-of-32 passing. Like the rest of his team, his performance was night and day; he went 10-of-17 in the first half for 131 yards and a pair of scores, but his 4-for-15 jaunt in the final two quarters soured what was a promising early performance.
“We have to get guys to believe and overcome adversity,” said Connor. “Things like not shutting down when plays don’t go well—we’ve got to stay with it and gut it out.”
“It’s easy to do it a time or two,” he went on, “but it’s a four-quarter game. The better team won tonight. They rode out the highs and lows, and that’s what we’re striving for.”
This is Connor’s first year in the head coaching spot, so as his team learns, he’s in step with it.
“We’re all learning each other,” he said. “I was in college coaching before, so moving to the high school game, it’s a process.”
“It’s a big-time difference, not only schematically, but dealing with issues off-the-field,” he went on. “It’s a different animal for me, and that’s what I told them on the first day.”
“You don’t get a new coach and go undefeated,” he said. “It takes time—a lot of work and trust. It doesn’t come quickly, but we’re building it.”
Next Saturday, La Salle will head to Archbishop Ryan for a tilt against the Raiders. Carroll plays at St. Joe’s Prep Friday night.