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Mount Saint Joseph football starts fast, overwhelms Calvert Hall, 35-0, to advance to MIAA A title game

Mount Saint Joseph takes the field before its victory over Franklin earlier this season.
Mount Saint Joseph takes the field before its victory over Franklin earlier this season.

The Mount Saint Joseph football team did not want a slow start in its Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference semifinal against visiting Calvert Hall on Saturday. The Gaels have been bugged by those on offense at times, but they’ve fared better in recent weeks, and coach Rich Holzer wanted more.

His wish came true. Quarterback Billy Atkins threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to Semaj Henson just over four minutes into the game, which gave No. 3 Mount Saint Joseph a lead it never lost. Atkins and Henson connected twice more for touchdowns, which led the Gaels a 35-0 victory over No. 5 Calvert Hall.

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Mount Saint Joseph (9-2) advanced to the MIAA A Conference championship game against No. 2 McDonogh (11-0) on Saturday at Archbishop Spalding at 7:30 p.m. McDonogh scored a 14-7 road victory over the Gaels during the regular season.

The Eagles earned their spot by rallying for a 29-23 victory over Spalding on Friday night in the other semifinal.

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Holzer said his team has started quicker in the past few games, and he wanted that to continue against Calvert Hall (8-3).

“The kids are coming away faster [at the start] instead of taking a series or two to warm up,” Holzer said. “Hopefully, this means we’re peaking at the right time. They played well today.”

The 80-yard touchdown pass really seemed to put the Gaels in command. Mount Saint Joseph’s offense thrives on striking quickly, and they got it on that play, which is called “Divide.”

Atkins, who completed 15 of 19 passes for 277 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, faked a handoff to Marlowe Wax Jr. before pulling the ball back and hitting Henson in stride down the middle. Henson raced for the 80-yard score with 7:54 left in the first quarter.

“[Henson] can play; he can run,” Atkins said. “It set the tone.”

Henson caught another touchdown pass in the second quarter. On fourth-and-goal, Atkins threw the junior a 3-yard pass for a 14-0 lead with 3:41 left in the first half.

Mount Saint Joseph made it 21-0 midway through the third quarter when Wax scored on a 2-yard run. Henson then got his third and final touchdown by making a diving catch on a 7-yard touchdown pass from Atkins. That made it 28-0 with 1:05 left in the third quarter. Two plays later, Jabari Echols returned an interception for a 41-yard touchdown and the 35-0 lead.

But there was no question that, in this game, the good start went a long way towards the happy ending. The Gaels wanted it and then went out and did the job.

“That’s what we talked about week,” Henson said. “To set the tone and come out fast and execute.”

Henson finished with four catches for 92 yards and those three touchdowns. Wax again was a force on offense and defense, rushing for 75 yards on 12 carries, which included his touchdown that came off of a direct snap.

He added two catches for 63 yards and and made four tackles on defense as Mount Saint Joseph shut down the Cardinals again. The Gaels blanked them for the final two-and-a-half quarters of their regular-season meeting and then added four more quarters to that list in this game.

Now, Mount Saint Joseph goes the conference title game, where it will hope to start fast once more.

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CH; 0; 0; 0; 0; —; 0

MSJ; 7; 7; 21; 0; —; 35

M — Henson 80 pass from Atkins (Martin kick)

M — Henson 3 pass from Atkins (Martin kick)

M — Wax 2 run (Martin kick)

M — Henson 7 pass from Atkins (Martin kick)

M — Echols 41 interception return (Martin kick)

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