Holy Cross apparently didn’t like the taste of defeat after last week’s loss to Jesuit, and the Tigers got back on track in a big way Friday night against Warren Easton.
The offense rolled up nearly 400 yards while the defense forced four turnovers turning two of those into touchdowns, and Holy Cross built 35-6 third-quarter lead en route to a 49-26 non-district win over the Eagles at Tad Gormley Stadium.
“I’m really proud of the guys and I’m glad that they responded,” Holy Cross coach Guy LeCompte said of his team’s bounce-back effort. “Handling adversity is something we’ve been working on and I think the guys responded after last week’s (20-14) loss (to Jesuit).”
Junior quarterback John Dade Wooton led the way for the Tigers (4-2) completing 21 of his 28 passes for 286 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions against the Eagles (2-3). Wooton also completed 15 of his first 16 passes in the first half and his favorite target throughout the night was senior receiver Tyler Kirkwood.
The 3-star prospect reeled in nine passes for 189 yards with scores of 80 and 16 yards, which put the Tigers ahead 21-6 with 9:58 left until halftime and 28-6 with 10:16 to go in the third.
“The offense last week wasn’t too good for us,” Wooton said. “We didn’t execute our plays and this week I think we did. We cut down on our penalties and it worked out as you can see.”
Wooton, however, found a different target for his first touchdown throw of the night hitting Jalen Johnson on a 2-yard screen pass for a 7-0 lead with 9:16 remaining in the opening period.
The score was set up by a 32-yard interception return to Easton’s 6-yard line by sophomore defensive back Ernest Marbley, who found himself in the perfect spot after the pass was tipped into the air by senior Connor Wensel.
The Eagles actually answered on the following possession when senior quarterback Dayshawn Holmes ripped off a 64-yard run before Kolbe Cage tracked him down at the 4-yard line. The ball popped out as Cage made contact, but Easton junior receiver Quintrill Johnson’s hustle paid off as he was able to dive on the loose ball in the end zone for a touchdown.
Easton’s ensuing extra point was blocked by Barryn Sorrell leaving them down 7-6 with 8:17 to go in the first, and it was essentially all Holy Cross for the next two quarters.
The Tigers scored 28 straight points over the second and third quarters with Amiri Franklin’s 5-yard run increasing their lead to 14-6 with 4:42 left in the first. Kirkwood followed with his two aforementioned scores, then Tyler Grubbs gave Holy Cross a commanding 35-6 advantage with 6:40 left in the third after a 16-yard interception return.
“It was actually a credit to Gavyn O’Conner who tipped the ball in the air,” explained Grubbs, who also had a big fourth down stop in the second quarter along with a strip and fumble recovery in the third quarter.
“I just saw the ball coming down and got my hands on it. I knew I had to score it because during my sophomore year I got caught on the 1-(yard line) on an interception so I knew I had to score that one that time.”
Easton responded quickly, however, with Alred Luke Jr. returning the ensuing kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown (video at bottom), but the Tigers soon regained control with two straight touchdowns to start the fourth quarter.
After 3-and-outs by both teams, Holy Cross used nine plays to cover 52 yards with Wooton throwing his fourth touchdown of the night to end the drive. This one went to junior Jaden Handy from 32 yards out, then Cage brought an interception back 26 yards for a touchdown 55 seconds later for an insurmountable, 49-12, lead with 9:50 left in the game.
“Our defense has been good all year,” LeCompte said. “They gave us some good field position on a lot of possessions as well and we were able to capitalize.”
Easton tacked on two late touchdowns in the last four minutes with throws of 32 and 63 yards to junior Casey Cain with 3:25 left and senior Jewell Holmes with 15 seconds to play. Both passes were thrown by freshman Keddrick Connelly, who checked in for Holmes about midway through the third after Grubbs pick-6.
The Eagles struggled throughout the night without 4-star running back Ashaad Clayton on the field, who expected to play but was held out at the last minute.
“He could’ve went tonight but as a coach I made the decision to hold (Clayton) out,” said Easton coach Jerry Phillips, whose team was also without multiple offensive and defensive lineman due to injury. “He’s p****ed off at me, but eventually two or three years down the road he’ll figure out why I did what I did.”
That’s also about the time Connelly will be getting his legs under him as Easton’s projected starter, and the freshman flashed some of his ability throughout his relatively short appearance Friday night.
“He’s going to be good and we call him ‘Lance 2.0,” said Phillips referencing former quarterback Lance LeGendre, who’s currently a freshman at Maryland. “He’s still got the big eyes but he’s going to be a good one, but that injury bug is killing us. We’re just going to limp through the season and keep fighting.”
The Eagles will look to rebound next Saturday as they kick off District 9-4A play against Carver at Pan-American Stadium.
Holy Cross, meanwhile, should gain some confidence as they’re set to slide back into Catholic League play against Rummel, which will also be a Saturday game played at Tad Gormley.
Friday’s win was much-needed as the Tigers have a treacherous road ahead of them beginning with the Raiders before matchups against John Curtis, Brother Martin and St. Augustine to close out the regular season.
“It gives us a lot of confidence,” Grubbs said of the win over Easton. “Coming together as a team with wins is really key to our success and this win is really going to help us pick up our energy on the field next week at practice.”
Warren Easton: 316 yards of total offense (121 rushing, 195 passing)
Holy Cross: 368 yards of total offense (82 rushing, 286 passing)
Rushing: Dayshawn Holmes, 13-65; Alred Luke Jr., 9-30; Jay Gordon, 5-20; Quintrill Johnson, 1-4, 1 TD; Keddrick Connelly, 5-4; De’Kunta Mason Jr., 1-(-2).
Receiving: Jewell Holmes, 6-127, 1 TD; Curtis Elmore, 3-36; Casey Cain, 1-32, 1 TD.
Passing: Dayshawn Holmes, 7-10, 82 yards, 0 TDs, 2 INTs; Keddrick Connelly, 3/10, 113 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT.
Rushing: Celven Hulbert, 5-72; Amiri Franklin, 6-23, 1 TD; Jaden Handy, 1-2; John Dade Wooton, 5-(-2); Cooper Couvillion, 1-(-5); Christian Nunnery, 4-(-8).
Receiving: Tyler Kirkwood, 9-189, 2 TDs; Jaden Handy, 4-83, 1 TD; Christian Calamari, 1-9; Jalen Johnson, 6-5, 1 TD; Celven Hulbert, 1-0.
Passing: John Dade Wooton, 21-28, 286 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs.
Holy Cross — Jalen Johnson 2 pass from John Wooton (Eli LaFrance kick), 9:16, 0-7.
Holy Cross — Quintrill Johnson 4 offensive fumble recovery after Dayshawn Holmes 64 run (kick blocked), 8:17, 6-7.
Holy Cross — Amiri Franklin 5 run (LaFrance kick), 4:42, 6-14.
Holy Cross — Tyler Kirkwood 80 pass from Wooton (LaFrance kick), 9:58, 6-21.
Holy Cross — Kirkwood 16 pass from Wooton (LaFrance kick), 10:16, 6-28.
Holy Cross — Tyler Grubbs 16 interception return (LaFrance kick), 6:40, 6-35.
Warren Easton — Alred Luke Jr. 97 kick return (pass intercepted), 6:24, 12-35.
Holy Cross — Jaden Handy 32 pass from Wooton (LaFrance kick), 10:45, 12-42.
Holy Cross — Kolbe Cage 26 interception return (LaFrance kick), 9:50, 12-49.
Warren Easton — Casey Cain 32 pass from Keddrick Connelly (Jewell Holmes from Connelly), 3:25, 20-49.
Warren Easton — Holmes 63 pass from Connelly (pass failed), 0:15, 26-49.
NEXT UP: Warren Easton begins District 9-4A play against Carver Saturday at Pan American Stadium at 2:30 p.m. Holy Cross jumps back into Catholic League play against Rummel Saturday at Tad Gormley Stadium at 7 p.m.