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Winless Archbishop Carroll still searching for total commitment

PHILADELPHIA >> Dan Connor stared down at the turf, saying nothing. He didn’t struggle to find the words for his postgame talk.

“I hate giving a losing speech,” said Connor, “and I’ve given it too many times.”

The first-year Archbishop Carroll coach saw what he called “a winnable one” slip through his team’s grasp Saturday. The Patriots fell, 28-13, to Father Judge at Northeast High School.

Carroll (0-9 0-6 Catholic League) made it a one-possession game late in the third quarter, on a touchdown by senior running back Christian Smith, before Judge’s Tim Weldon scored his third touchdown. The Crusaders (4-5, 2-4) added another fourth-quarter touchdown to take control.

Connor didn’t expect an undefeated season when he took over the reins at Carroll.

“But I didn’t think I’d see this,” Connor said. “Unless you get everybody committed and everybody on the same page, you can’t win. We have a handful of guys who are really invested in this team, and they want to win every game. That’s their mentality. I just don’t see it in 55 guys. It’s not like that yet.”

Father Judge outgained Archbishop Carroll, 173-4, in first-half offense, and made it 300-117 for the game.

“We’re just not playing four quarters,” said senior wide receiver and cornerback Khadir Roberts. “We’d be a hard team to beat if we could put it all together.”

“You can definitely see that some guys aren’t invested,” said senior safety Greg Natale. “On some plays, kids are walking instead of running. But as we go along, more kids are stepping up and stepping into roles. You can see it in practice and games that, in each week, more guys are putting it on the line.”

Judge’s Weldon found the end zone twice during a lopsided first half. It could have been much worse for Carroll. Natale ended one of Judge’s drives by stripping the ball from tight end Jeremy Smith and recovering it. Later, Judge misfired on three red-zone pass attempts as time expired before halftime.

“I just tried to rip it out and got it,” Natale said. “I was hoping our offense would rally behind it and score.”

That rally eventually came in the third quarter, when Carroll’s Smith capped a 16-play drive with a 2-yard touchdown run. The score cut Judge’s lead to 14-7, and ignited a celebration on the Patriots’ bench.

But Judge answered back on its ensuing possession. Quarterback Rob King, a Temple commit, found Justin Gies for a 15-yard scoring connection. Gies’ touchdown, his 10th of the season, set a Father Judge single-season record. The Crusaders took an insurmountable lead the next time they got the ball. Weldon, who had 130 yards on 20 carries, tucked and ran 21 yards untouched for his third and final score.

“We were just looking to break our four-game losing streak and get a winning streak going as we get ready for the (Catholic League) playoffs,” Weldon said.

For Carroll, the losing streak has reached nine games. The Patriots end the home portion of their regular-season schedule next Friday against Bonner & Prendergast. And like every week, Connor is hoping his guys come ready to play.

“In this league,” he said, “there are no weeks off. I knew what I was getting into, but I’m also learning the hard way.”

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