November 7th, 2010
Leopards Dethrone Margaret Mary 22-6
St. Gabriel captures Class AAA Toy Bowl title
St. Margaret Mary feels at home at Trinity’s Harry Jansing Field. The Mustangs won the Class AAA Toy Bowl championship a year ago, and have been the mark other programs have strived to reach.
St. Gabriel was up to the task against the defending champs. A scoreless first quarter gave way to some second quarter fireworks. Facing a third-down and long, the Leopards’ Joseph Martone picked up a huge 13-yard gain to the one-yard line. That led to Jackie Arnold’s one yard push on fourth down to give the Leopards an 8-0 lead with 4:30 to go in the first half.
But like champions, the Mustangs responded immediately, on the ensuing kick-off. Michael Ackerman weaved his way down field for a 57-yard return to the St. Gabriel nine-yard line. Noah Houk punched through for a four yard score to put the Mustangs on the board, trailing 8-6. St. Margaret Mary attempted to tack on the extra points but Landon Corolla extended his arms to the air and blocked the kick attempt, and the Leopards held on to a slim lead with under four minutes to play in the half.
Following a St. Gabriel punt, St. Margaret Mary was driving downfield looking to get back on the board before halftime. Then a dream came true for St. Gabriel’s Carter Mattingly. He was right in the passing lane and on the move when he picked off Noah Houk’s pass and blazed a trail to the endzone for a 31-yard score. The Leopards built a 16-6 halftime lead.
The third quarter was similar to the first. Both teams just burned time off the clock, which played in the favor of St. Gabriel. Before the end of the quarter, Joseph Martone sent a booming punt into the air that was ultimately downed at the Mustang four yard line. That left St. Margaret Mary with a long way to go to get back into the game.
More back and forth in the final quarter until a late St. Gabriel drive put the Leopards on the brink of a championship. Connor McKim hit Arnold for a 20-touchdown pass to put the Leopards ahead 22-6 and the game out of reach with under six minutes to go.
St. Gabriel avenged it’s only loss, an 8-6 defeat to St. Margaret Mary, 22-6. The win also ends a streak of three straight Toy Bowl titles for the Mustangs 7th & 8th grade group, who won titles last year, and as 5th and 6th graders the two previous years. “We just beat a great team!” St. Gabriel coach Jeff Hepler said after a cold Gatorade shower given to him by his players. “We knew we could compete with them when we lost by two earlier in the year.”
Hepler also says his team’s conditioning program early in the year really paid off. “We had the kids go through a boot camp we called Camp Hall” (named for assistant coach and ex-marine Rick Hall). “We have been in tip-top condition all year long and we knew we could wear opponents down and I think we did that today.”