By Greg Carey
GLEN DALE — Leading up to Friday’s season opener at John Marshall, veteran University coach John Kelley was concerned how his team’s defensive front would hold up against the Monarchs’ physical and experienced offensive line.
It was easy to see why throughout John Marshall’s thrilling 35-28 victory against the Class AAA No. 5 Hawks, as the Monarchs consistently got what they needed on the ground to come away with a marquee Week 1 win on their new turf field.
“Our running style is the same. We’re going to run it up the middle, right at you every play until you’re tired and don’t want to be out there anymore,” said John Marshall running back Charles McCool, who rushed for three touchdowns and caught another. “We just keep hitting you until you don’t want to play. That’s our style of offense.”
Leading 28-21 late in the third quarter, John Marshall forced a UHS turnover on downs to get the ball back at its own 34-yard line.
A 13-play drive ensued to cover the necessary 66 yards, with the Monarchs running on every play, including McCool’s 21-yard scamper to the end zone that put them up by two touchdowns with 7:34 remaining.
On the decisive drive, JM converted separate fourth-and-1 plays and finished it off with McCool’s fourth touchdown of the night.
University answered with a quick 63-yard drive and cut its deficit in half on Logan Holgorsen’s 9-yard TD pass to Amir Richardson with 6:31 to play.
JM took back over at its own 40 and used 11 running plays to get to the UHS 5-yard line, and more importantly, took nearly 5 minutes off the clock.
Faced with fourth down, the Monarchs were lined up to go for it, before a false start moved them back to the 10. They then elected to try a field goal, but it was blocked, which kept hope alive for the Hawks, who took over at their own 20 with 1:31 remaining.
UHS gained only 2 yards on the four plays that followed, giving the ball back to JM and setting off a celebration on the Monarchs’ sideline as it sealed a victory against a program that completed the 2017 regular season unbeaten.
“We had 11 in the box and they still pushed us down the field,” Kelley said. “But I give my kids a lot of credit. They battled, never gave up and believed they could win, and that blocked field goal gave us a shot.
“But they weren’t going to give us anything there except underneath stuff. They wore us down. People say, ‘Oh, your team’s not in shape.’ That’s not true. Their guys just wore us down and they beat us. That’s good, old-fashioned football.”
University (0-1) started fast, marching 68 yards for an opening touchdown, which came on Holgorsen’s 45-yard touchdown pass to Richardson just 3:43 into the action. Ironically, Holgorsen had connected with Richardson for a 44-yard TD pass moments earlier, but it was negated by a penalty for an ineligible man downfield.
The Hawks came up with their best defensive play of the night on the Monarchs’ first series, as Evan Parow intercepted a Jordan Wood pass in UHS territory.
Parow’s return put the Hawks in JM territory to start their second series, but a fumbled handoff inside the 10-yard line ended up in the hands of Bradlee Clark, giving the Monarchs the ball back at their own 12.
John Marshall (1-0) responded to the momentum-changing turnover by putting together a 12 play, 88-yard drive that was capped by a 25-yard TD run from McCool. The drive, which consisted of all running plays, allowed the Monarchs to tie the game at 7 with 10:20 to play in the first half.
“We go up 14-0, I think the seed of doubt is planted and whatever. If we could have gotten two scores in front of them, then their ground game plays in our favor, because they’re taking time off the clock,” Kelley said. “We can’t get off the field. They were just tougher than us and more physical than us. They got behind their big linemen and pushed us right down the field with their big, strong backs.”
Holgorsen connected with Parow for a 36-yard pass just beyond the midway point of the second quarter, before the duo hooked up again on the very next play for an 8-yard TD pass that put the Hawks back in front, 14-7.
But JM answered to tie the game on McCool’s 1-yard TD run with 25 seconds remaining in the half. That score would not have been possible without the Monarchs getting an 18-yard run from McCool on a fourth-and-10 play at the Hawks’ 37.
JM started the second half with the ball and marched 68 yards in eight plays to take its first lead of the game on Wood’s 1-yard touchdown run at the 8:42 mark of the third quarter. Key plays of that drive included passes of 45 and 22 yards from Wood to Justin Frohnapfel, with the latter featuring a juggling catch on fourth-and-13 that moved the ball to the UHS 1.
The Hawks answered with an impressive 64-yard drive to knot the contest at 21, with Holgorsen tossing a 23-yard TD pass to Parow at the 7:05 mark of the third quarter.
After seven consecutive runs to start the Monarchs’ next drive, Wood found McCool for a 52-yard touchdown pass that allowed JM to hold a 28-21 lead with 3:54 remaining in the third.
The Monarchs finished with 323 rushing yards, led by McCool’s 91-yard effort.