Last season, St. Vincent Pallotti and St. Mary’s faced off against one another in the MIAA B Conference championship game, with St. Mary’s emerging victorious. On Friday night, the results were flipped in a 28-24 victory for Pallotti.

Both teams put up stout defensive efforts on the night, but Pallotti running back Emani Alford ultimately was the deciding factor of Friday night’s contest with four rushing touchdowns.

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“It’s just God-willing man,” Alford said of his night. “I will just continue day-by-day to get better — I don’t even worry about the rankings or anything. I just play my game of football.”

Pallotti scored the final 14 points on the evening — all by Alford on the ground — to turn a 24-14 deficit into the final four-point victory over the final seven minutes and change of the fourth quarter.

“Offensively, we looked at our guys and said, ‘Lead us down the field’. The kids wanted it, in spite of everything else," Pallotti head coach Anthony Ashley said.

St. Mary’s running back Alex Wicks, who came into the night as the leading rusher in terms of yards and touchdowns in the MIAA, didn’t play at all during the first half as he nursed a toe injury. The Saints trailed 7-2 at the half.

But after intermission, Wicks toughed it out to score 14 total points with a two-point conversion and two touchdowns — putting the Saints ahead by double digits before Pallotti rallied late.

“He felt like playing and he played pretty well when he played,” St. Mary’s head coach Jason Budroni said. “So that’s why Alex is leading the county in yards and points and everything. He’s a good player — he’s a really good player for us.”

St. Mary’s scored first with a Patrick Dunleavy sack and safety with 5:32 left in the first quarter. Pallotti would score on a rushing touchdown by Alford with 6:44 remaining in the half and with a converted extra point attempt, they would take a 7-2 lead going into the half.

Early in the third quarter, St. Mary’s quarterback Chris Gollini threw a 72-yard touchdown pass to Gabe Souza. Wicks would dive into the endzone for the two-point conversion, giving St. Mary’s a 10-7 lead.

The game also featured a number of defensive stops in key situations by both squads. St. Mary’s scored a touchdown after securing a fumble recovery and getting a quality return from Samuel Ibeziako. Wicks plunged it in for an 11-yard touchdown with three minutes left in the third.

After stopping St. Mary’s in their tracks on four downs, Pallotti ended up getting another touchdown from Alford, his second of the night, with 8:44 left to make the score 17-14. However, St. Mary’s return man Dhane Blair set the team up for another touchdown rush by Wicks to give them a 24-14 lead.

Despite taking their lumps and being down late, Pallotti head coach Tony Ashley’s players believed that they could overcome this obstacle.

“We just got the guys on the side and told them ‘We have eight minutes left in this game. We have to do what we do and play football’,” Ashley said. "There was a lot of time left, we just had to figure out what they were doing defensively.

After the score, Pallotti found themselves backed up deep in their own territory. They answered with a 62-yard rush by Alford and then just a few plays later, he dove in for his third touchdown. The extra-point attempt was no good.

With just a few minutes left in the game, Alford scored his fourth touchdown and converted on the two-point attempt, giving Pallotti a 28-24 lead with 1:42 remaining. The defense then made one more stop to secure the win.

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Pallotti (6-0 MIAA B, 7-1) will take on Boy’s Latin on Oct. 25 at 7 p.m., while St. Mary’s (4-3) will have a home game against John Carroll next Friday at 7 p.m.

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