By Michael Finnegan / Special Contributor
St. Mark’s knew coming into Friday night’s game against previously undefeated Arlington Oakridge that it had its hands full.
The Owls, boasting the area’s leading passer in Campbell Garrett, averaged just under 40 points per game heading into the contest.
But The Lions came up big on defense when it counted most, intercepting Garrett twice in the end zone to thwart Oakridge’s comeback attempt and hold on for a 28-16 win at Hunt Family Stadium.
“We needed this one,” said St. Mark’s head coach Bart Epperson. “Oakridge has a high-powered offense with many weapons, and were at the top of the SPC North standings. This puts us right back into the race.”
The St. Mark’s offense was led by Matthew Placide and Jackson Cole. Placide passed for 235 yards and three touchdowns, while Cole picked up 110 yards rushing yards on just 10 carries.
“We executed at a much higher percentage tonight on the both sides of the ball,” said Epperson. “That’s an extremely well-coached football team, and we just tried to break down the film as best we could.”
St. Mark’s (3-3) jumped out to 6-0 lead midway through the second quarter when Placide connected on the first of two touchdown strikes to Zachary Houillion, this one from the 13-yard line.
After forcing a punt on the Owls’ ensuing possession, Placide found Bryce Killian for a 46-yard gain, setting up a 30-yard field goal by Grant Brooks to go up 9-0.
Another punt by Oakridge backed the Lions up at their own 20-yard line with two minutes remaining before halftime. On the next play, Cole took a handoff up the middle and dashed 80 yards for a touchdown, giving St. Mark’s a 15-0 advantage.
“We had some key players on offense and defense come back from injury tonight,” Epperson said. “That helped immensely.”
Oakridge (6-1) used some trickery right before intermission to cut into the 15-point deficit. With 20 seconds left, Garrett handed off to Gordon Fleming on a reverse. Fleming stepped back and threw a 20-yard pass to Bronson Boyd to advance the ball to the Lions 6-yard line.
Campbell then took a quarterback draw up the middle to make it 15-7 with six seconds left in the half.
St. Mark’s wasted no time on its opening possession of the third quarter. Placide hooked up with Houillion for a long completion before hitting Killian from 13 yards out to take a 22-7 lead.
After Oakridge turned the ball over on downs deep in its own territory, Placide again found Houillion in the end zone, this time for a 22-yard touchdown and a 28-7 advantage.
The Lions stopped two long Oakridge drives with interceptions, both in the end zone late in the game, to preserve the victory.