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Concordia Prep football trounces St. John’s Catholic, 53-0, for coach Joe Battaglia’s first win

The Concordia Prep football team earned a 53-0 shutout victory against St. John’s Catholic on Saturday, the first victory for coach Joe Battaglia as the head man with the Saints.

Battaglia, a Navy football assistant, understood that with several COVID-19 cancellations around the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association and with additional health guidelines being put in place, this week could spell the end of play between league teams. So, his team came prepared and ready to fight for a home win after falling last week to St. Vincent Pallotti, 15-6.

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“This was a great team win all the way around,” Battaglia said. “We played hard from the beginning to the end and it’s just cool to see all of these guys' hard work come together. That’s the best part of it. We wanted to beat Pallotti, but for us to respond and improve — which is our goal every week — for us to do that in all three phases of the game is really awesome to see.”

Quarterback Jalen Bradford and running back Keenan Gilchrist had a big day for Concordia Prep (1-1), each scoring two touchdowns. Bradford’s came in the first half – one rushing in the first quarter and one passing to wide receiver Clifton Gillis Jr.

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“I’m definitely proud of the offensive line, they did great protecting this week,” Bradford said. “They executed and gave me a chance to throw touchdowns. It was great. When [the running game] put the linebackers in a tough position, the defense doesn’t know what you’re going to run necessarily. So, it was a lot better with the running game going.”

Gilchrist had no touchdowns last week, so starting off strong was the key to getting past St. John’s Catholic (1-2). He led a running back group that combined for over 200 yards on the ground.

“I think [I was] pretty good – better than last week,” Gilchrist said. “I tried to get more touchdowns last week because I didn’t get any. We always try to get as much yards as we can get and get many touchdowns. Everybody eats.”

Gilchrist came up big in the second quarter with a 32-yard run. He followed that up with a 16-yard reception on a screen, and ended the drive with a 20-yard touchdown run with 8:51 left in the quarter to put the Saints up 14-0. Bradford finished off the quarter with a 26-yard touchdown pass to Everette Dingle Jr.

Then the Saints came marching into the second half with intensity.

Sophomore receiver Josh Derry started the second half with a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to give Concordia Prep a 27-0 lead. Gilchrist’s second touchdown came on a 37-yard run with 8:14 left in the third quarter. Linebacker Gabe McArthur scored his second touchdown on a fumble recovery this season for a 40-0 lead. Then, quarterback Justin Carter capitalized on a kickoff recovery to score on a 2-yard run.

The effort was all a result of a defense that played with reckless abandon, especially the big boys up front.

“It was just a replay of last week too,” McArthur said. “We got the strip-sack again. It was the right place at the right time, and I took it to the end zone. Sone [Metuge] – in my opinion, he’s the best in the conference. Last week, we stopped them on defense, but we still felt disrespected that they [Pallotti] came in here and won. So, we had to get the shutout.”

With the running clock on, running back Lamar Heath ran for a 16-yard touchdown with under eight minutes remaining for the final margin.

St. John’s Catholic dropped its second game of the year after beating Annapolis Area Christian last week. The quickly scheduled game meant that the team had to stay prepared for several possible opponents.

The feeling for coach Daryl Hayes was akin to opening Pandora’s Box.

“They’re a tough team – it’s a tough opponent,” Hayes said. “We had prepared for three separate teams this week and we only a day to prepare for these guys. They’re a B [Conference] team, we’re a C team. They have more boys playing football on their sideline than we have in our school. So, we knew it was going to be tough.”

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