MARPLE — After Archbishop Carroll defeated Cardinal O’Hara, 26-7, Friday night to move to 3-2 overall and 2-0 in the Philadelphia Catholic League Blue Division, a question remained: Just how good are the Patriots?
Good teams avenge losses, and Carroll suffered two of them to the Lions a season ago, including in the PCL Class 4A championship. But good teams also don’t commit penalties – the Patriots were flagged 10 times for 80 yards against O’Hara.
Good teams don’t turn the ball over. But Carroll lost three fumbles, one of which was a bad snap on a punt that gave the Lions a first and goal. And good teams don’t drop easy passes, as the Patriots receivers did on potential big plays throughout the game.
Yet there’s something to be said about a group that overcomes those mistakes and wins, and wins easily, by 19 points.
“I still think they’re learning. They’re coming together. We think we’re starting to see the dividends,” Patriots coach Kyle Detweiler said. “This was a good win for sure. There’s plenty of teachable film we’ll get to watch.”
If anything, Carroll has two things it can rely on each game. Quarterback Russell Minor-Shaw is a star and put his talents on full display, going 9-for-18 for 121 yards. He also ran for 130 yards and three touchdowns. The other pillar is a stout defensive front, led by Jamil Howard.
It was that unit that kept the Patriots dominant during their flurry of first-half miscues. The defense held the Lions to 21 yards of offense in the first two quarters and forced two turnovers. O’Hara’s initial first down came with just under 6:30 to play in the half.
“We wanted to get off the ball as fast as possible and come out strong,” Howard said. “We stuck to the plan. We stayed hungry the whole game.”
The Lions found life just as difficult after the break. They totaled four first downs in the game, which included Cole Sprague’s two-yard touchdown dive in the fourth quarter following that bad snap on a Carroll punt.
Howard, along with Darryl Simpson Jr. and Jason Lafontano, were relentless on the defensive line.
“If Jamil Thomas wasn’t involved in the play, it was because we had something going in the opposite direction,” Detweiler said. “He was an absolute force.”
While the defense played its part in the early going, Minor-Shaw, who scored on a 13-yard scamper to close the first quarter, hit his stride in the third, showing off all the skills that make him so tough to stop.
On the second play of the second half, he kept his eyes downfield to find Victor Taylor over the middle for a 39-yard gain. Then on a fourth-and-eight, after a drop that would’ve been a touchdown, Minor-Shaw escaped the pocket for 13 yards. Tyler Alston scored on the next play.
Later in the quarter, Minor-Shaw took off again, skipping over a would-be tackler to find the end zone following a 24-yard run. He capped his night by bursting through the line and outrunning the O’Hara secondary on a 65-yard touchdown sprint.
“The dude’s 225 pounds,” Lions coach B.J. Hogan said of stopping Minor-Shaw, who is actually listed as being 240. “I’m surprised at how well he moves. That kid’s one of the best quarterbacks in the league.”
“We had to forget about the first half and go into the second with a 0-0 mindset,” Minor-Shaw said. “We came out and executed and did everything we could on offense.”
Prior to the season, Minor-Shaw emphasized improving as a pocket passer. The results speak for themselves, but he still has the ability to break off and run when needed.
“Well, I was just doing what I do best,” he said of his three touchdowns on the ground.
“If he makes the right decisions and takes care of the ball,” Detweiler said, “he will always give us a chance to win.”
So is Carroll a good football team? The pieces are there. And if the mistakes aren’t, watch out.
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