With his undefeated and No. 4 ranked team rolling over opponents by an average score of 37-5, Marist head coach Alan Chadwick this week said he was a little worried about how his team would perform in a tight ball game.
Friday night against St. Pius, the War Eagles performed well in the clutch, but were not quite good enough. Golden Lion senior kicker Michael Matthews made two field goals in the final half minute of the game – one prior to an encroachment penalty on Marist, and the game winner with 20 seconds left in regulation from 30-yards out on the next snap – and St. Pius (3-3, 4-0) won an old fashioned slugfest, 10-9, at Marist’s Hughes Spaulding Stadium.
The game was a renewal of a long running rivalry that dates back to 1962. Marist (6-1, 4-1) still leads the overall series 30-16-3. But Friday night’s loss stung, as St. Pius now is in the drivers' seat in the race for the Region 6AAAA title.
“I don’t know what I’m going to say to [his team] yet,” Chadwick said afterward. “You’ve got to make plays and they made plays when it counted. They had a good scheme and they threw the ball well.”
"Our defense really stepped up tonight," St. Pius head coach Paul Standard said. "They played their tails off against a team that had been averaging about a million points."
With both teams known for their ground games, both made plays in the passing game when they needed to.
Trailing 7-6 with a little over five minutes left to play, Marist faced a fourth-and-five on its own 26 yard line. Quarterback Sam Phelts hit Griffin King out of the backfield for a seven-yard gain and a first down to preserve the drive. Eight plays later, including another pass to King, this time for 26 yards, Joey Gogol drilled his third field goal of the game, a 33 harder, to give Marist a 9-7 edge with just 1:53 on the clock.
Though his team had no timeouts, St. Pius quarterback Reed Egan wasn't phased.
"I knew we could do it. We practice our two-minute drill every week," he said.
Egan stayed calm against a furious War Eagle pass rush and dumped the ball to full back Dalton Wilson on the far seam three times during the final drive, which set up Matthews. With the Marist crowd yelling "Choke. Choke. Choke," he calmly nailed the game winner.
"I heard them at first," Matthews said. "But after we got set I locked in and blocked them out."
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