St. Paul's tailback Chris Berrier credited his offensive line with a save after leading the 13th-ranked Crusaders to a 13-3 victory over visiting John Carroll in a key Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association B Conference matchup yesterday.
Playing both ways in a game played in unseasonably high temperatures, Berrier showed off his speed and endurance by carrying the ball 34 times for 170 yards and one touchdown.
The 5-foot-11, 205-pound senior was similarly impressive at outside linebacker where he recorded two sacks for losses of 11 and 9 yards.
"The heat was draining and if it wasn't for the line in the second half, I probably would have died," said Berrier, referring to his tight end Chris Kakel and interior linemen William Choe, David Raush, Brandon Bortner, Bill Bond and Kimball Payne.
"But, they were determined and they just gave me a little crack [in the defense] and that's all I can hope for."
St. Paul's (5-0) bullied its way down the field on its opening possession before Berrier capped the 51-yard scoring drive with a 4-yard plunge. Berrier was the workhorse of the drive, getting the ball seven of the nine plays and averaging eight yards a carry.
The Patriots (2-2), who were coming off last week's big win over Severn, answered on their ensuing possession as they drove to the Crusaders' 18 before settling for a 36-yard field goal by Ryan Stangle.
The field goal was set up by a 46-yard pass from Brad Meerholz to Bryan Barrett, who picked up 25 yards after the catch by eluding three open-field tackles.
John Carroll's defense looked great in the second quarter. The Patriots forced a fumble, held the Crusaders to 40 yards offense and trailed, 7-3, at the half.
The Crusaders thought they had six more points when Simeon Wharton picked off a pass and raced 99 yards in the closing seconds of the half, but the run was negated by a clipping penalty.
The third quarter was another story.
St. Paul's offensive line, which coach Brian Abbott calls "the biggest in St. Paul's history," went back to work.
The Crusaders moved the ball to the Patriots' 18-yard line on their first drive before going off-sides and turning the ball over on downs.
The Crusaders would not be denied on their next possession.
They got the ball at midfield and drove 50 yards on four plays. Conor Gill hit Wharton on a stop-and-go route down the sideline for a 43-yard gain and then connected with Kakel for a 6-yard scoring strike.
"They beat us off the ball, that's the bottom line," said John Carroll coach Bill Mackley. "They out-played us, they out-blocked us, they out-tackled us and they controlled the line of scrimmage both offensively and defensively.
"Our kids may having been resting on their laurels after last week's big win."