Donald Day III and his teammates completed a journey Saturday night that they “spoke into existence” years ago.
The goal: An MIAA B Conference football title. Goal achieved.
The St. Mary’s Saints took down their rivals, the Severn Admirals, for the second straight week and won the conference championship, 28-14, at Whittles Field at Archbishop Spalding High School on Saturday night at Archbishop Spalding.
“As a senior group, as freshmen, we spoke this into existence, and now three years later, we’re here and it really just feels great,” said Day, who led the Saints with over 100 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns. “I wouldn’t want to do this with any other team.”
St. Mary’s (7-4) beat Severn (8-3) 35-7 in last week’s regular season finale. By winning that game and getting some help, the Saints won a tiebreaker that entered them into the conference title game, a re-match with their longtime rivals that seemed set up by destiny. Now, the Saints have claimed their first football title since 2008.
Severn’s opening drive ended early with a sack by Saints star pass-rusher Gerard Berzins, but on the Saints’ first play on offense, Admiral defensive back Trevor Marvin jumped in front of Kyle Hill’s pass and picked it off at midfield. But Severn went three and out, and the teams traded punts for the rest of the quarter.
Day suffered an injury on the first play of the second quarter but would later return. Head coach Jason Budroni said after the game that Day entered concussion protocol and checked out fine.
But on the play after Day exited, Hill completed his first pass of the night, finding Ryan Poole open in the left corner of the end zone for a 21-yard score.
St. Mary’s stuffed the Admirals’ ensuing drive thanks to sacks by Cam Brown and Gerard Berzins, and second-string running back Marcus Marshall carried the Saints when they got the ball back. Marshall’s running set up a field goal attempt, but Dominic Donohue missed the 37-yarder to the left.
Day returned on the Saints’ next possession and ran the ball for 11 and nine yards on his first two plays back. Marshall later broke a 20-yarder in his change-of-pace role, then Day brought the team to the 1-yard line and punched it in for the touchdown.
The Admirals got very little going offensively and punted on all six of their first-half drives.
To start the second half, St. Mary’s and Severn traded three-and-outs. On their way to a seventh straight punt, the Admirals’ long snap was low and dribbled past punter Dylan Gerger. Rather than falling on the ball, he ran behind it and a Saint defender drilled him.
St. Mary’s took over and was immediately in position to score again. Hill soon connected with Sam Weisshaar on a roll-out right to bring the Saints to the three. Day punched it on the next play to make it 21-0.
Severn quarterback Craig Stevens threw interceptions on the offense’s next two drives — an errant deep pass grabbed by Johnny Scatturo and a poor decision stolen by Ricky Aufderheide. After the second one, Marshall led the Saints’ offense to the promised land once again, finishing with a two-yard score.
The Admirals finally snapped into action, down four scores. Stevens completed deep passes to Mandish and Jakob Lilly to bring them to the red zone for the first time, then hit Mandish on a five-yard cross over the middle for a touchdown.
With 5:47 on the clock, Severn executed a perfect onside kick recovered by Jacob Perreten and marched down the field again. They got back to the 5-yard line, and after three straight incompletions, Stevens connected with Mandish once more on fourth and goal.
But the onside didn’t work twice, and the Saints ran Marshall to tick the clock down. They were forced to punt with 1:36 left, giving Severn its last shot. After Severn completed a few passes, Timber Berzins came up with a sack that effectively ended the game.
Budroni credited Day, Marshall and his offensive line for their continued success in the run game.
“Donald’s been fantastic,” he said. “Every time we need a yard, two yards, it’s almost automatic with Donald… We wouldn’t be who we are without Donald Day and the offensive line.”
For Severn, it was a heartbreaking end to what was shaping up like a storybook season. The Admirals started the season 8-0, combining a stout defense with a consistently good passing offense. They ended the season with two conference losses, and their defeat at the hands of the Saints set up the title game rematch. Ultimately, Severn came up short of winning the program’s first title since 2003.
Severn head coach Duane Tyler, in his first year at the helm after two seasons as the Admirals’ defensive coordinator, had nothing but positive things to say about Day and the Saints.
“I take my hat off. That kid runs, man,” Tyler said. “He’s got a big heart.”
But Tyler felt his team has shown a ton of promise this year.
“Coming in last year, we knew we could make some noise. Now getting to this point, of course, it’s not easy because of how hard this league is. They exceeded expectations in terms of just jelling together, coming together and clicking so quickly for us.”
Severn (8-3) 0 0 0 14 — 14
St. Mary’s (7-4) 0 14 7 7 — 28
SM — Poole 21 pass from Hill (Donohue kick)
SM — Day 1 run (Donohue kick)
SM — Day 3 run (Donohue kick)
SM — Marshall 2 run (Donohue kick)
SE — Mandish 5 pass from Stevens (Gerger kick)
SE — Mandish 5 pass from Stevens (Gerger kick)