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Pallotti goes north of border for first win of football season

Pallotti senior running back Emani Ashford, no. 9, rushed for 107 yards on 13 carries in the Panthers' 20-0 season-opening win over West Toronto Prep.
Pallotti senior running back Emani Ashford, no. 9, rushed for 107 yards on 13 carries in the Panthers' 20-0 season-opening win over West Toronto Prep. (Photo courtesy of Pallotti Athletics)

The members of this year’s St. Vincent Pallotti High varsity football team won’t soon forget the first game of the season.

And it is not because the Panthers won 20-0.

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What made the game memorable on Aug. 23 was the Laurel private school opened the season in Canada against West Toronto Prep.

It is believed to be the first time Pallotti played a football game outside of the United States.

“We were looking for a travel game,” said Anthony Ashley, in his second year as the varsity head coach. “The Pallotti football team had never travelled before (outside the region). When I took over as head coach last year, one thing I wanted to do was make sure this team had the chance to travel.”

“That is what we did at Good Counsel,” added Ashley, a long-time coach at that private school in Montgomery County. “Once the schedule came out we went looking for a travel game. Three Canadian teams were on the list and the coach at West Toronto prep agreed to play.”

The team took a coach bus and stopped at Niagara Falls on the way to Toronto. Several parents also made the trip, and Ashley said Pallotti had a good turnout for the game.

West Toronto Prep annually makes trips to the United States to play top high school programs, according to Ashley.

“I loved the way my defense played,” Ashley said of beating West Toronto Prep. “They have been playing well all preseason. West Toronto Prep was a very big team, with guys on the line who were 6-foot-3 or bigger. They play a tough schedule. I knew it would be a tough game.”

The Panthers are once again members of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference. Pallotti lost in the B Conference title game last year.

Pallotti played its first home game Aug. 30 at Fairland against Calvert Hall, a powerhouse from the A Conference of the MIAA, and they fell, 35-0. They followed that loss with a 31-7 victory over conference foe John Carroll.

The Panthers return eight starters on both offense and defense.

Ashley feels the top three teams in the B Conference are John Carroll, St. Mary’s, of Annapolis, and Pallotti.

“It should be a very good season for us,” Ashley said. “We have made a lot of headway in the program.”

Senior running back Emani Alford ran 13 times for 107 yards and had one catch for 13 yards at West Toronto Prep.

“He runs very hard. He is a big guy, over 200 pounds,” Ashley said. Alford has attracted attention from college coaches at Morgan State, James Madison and Towson.

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JMU and Towson are members of the Colonial Athletic Association and were ranked nationally in preseason polls at the FCS level.

Alford ran for more than 1100 yards last season, according to Ashley.

Another senior running back for Pallotti is Mekhi McDaniels, who ran for a touchdown in Canada. He has attracted attention from Michigan, JMU and Howard, among others.

Junior quarterback Will Webster Brown completed three of 12 passes for 34 yards and junior Keshawn Wheeler had three carries for 28 yards.

Webster Brown played basketball but did not play football last season, while Wheeler has gotten several college offers, including Rutgers, Massachusetts and ODU, according to Ashley.

Sophomore safety Marquise Allsup had an interception return of 44 yards in Canada.

Junior linebacker Connor Maloney blocked a field goal and returned it 77 yards for a touchdown against West Toronto Prep.

Braxton Harsley, a sophomore defensive end, tackled the quarterback in the end zone for a safety.

Harsley had four tackles, the one sack, one safety and knocked down a pass.

Defensive end Chris Boti assisted on four tackles and sophomore defensive tackle Cornell Evans took part in six tackles.

Defensive backs Osei Dixon and Julian Ganthier have committed to UMass.

Junior wideout Isaiah Perkins has offers from Maryland, Rutgers, UMass and Duke.

Pallotti players from last year now with college programs include Brockman Wallace, a freshman tight end from Virginia now at Towson; and Dante Hooker, Jr., a freshman defensive lineman from Columbia now at West Virginia Wesleyan. Towson hosts North Carolina Central on Sept. 7 at 6 p.m.

College notes

Laurel residents with Division II Bowie State are wideout Keshane Hinckley (Laurel High), defensive lineman Jason Rogers (DeMatha) and linebacker Curtis Walker, Jr. (Good Counsel). The Bulldogs open Sept. 7 in Springfield, Mass., at American International College.

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