September 16th, 2017

Cougars' mettle proves too much for Paris

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Paul Najjar

Senior Writer


Cougars' mettle proves too much for Paris
The Holy Cross defense limited Paris to just 183 total yards and 11 points / cover: LB Demetrius Dillard slams into a Paris running back

Two Class 1-A teams battled for notoriety Friday night at Holy Cross’ Alumni Field, but it was the host Cougars roaring through the visiting Paris Greyhounds in the second half to snatch a 16-11 victory.

With Paris dressing only 26 players and four players in street clothes due to injury, the Cougars utilized their depth on this Homecoming Night to wear down the visitors to the tune of three second-half drives and those 16 points.

“They are an awfully good football team,” Holy Cross head coach Bob Bronger said of the visitors. “They were undefeated coming into this game and had blown out their opposition every week. They have great speed and quickness with a lot of seniors. They were tough for us to handle, but I’m so proud of our guys. I think our depth wore them down a bit in the second half and we were able to make a couple more plays than them.”

The Cougars depth and perhaps the warm, muggy night conspired to drain the opposition. Play had to be halted several times in the second half for the training staff to attend to cramping Paris players.

“First and foremost, we have the utmost respect for the Holy Cross ball club,” Paris head coach Brian Washington said. “Those young men play hard and gave their best effort when they needed it and tonight they were the better team. Our kids didn’t stop fighting and gave everything they had. We’re growing as a team and getting better, but no one likes to walk away with a loss.”

But it was one play that sealed the win for the Cougars (3-2) and it came from a pair of juniors, with some help from two senior stars.

With 2:13 left and Holy Cross clinging to their precarious 16-11 lead, the Cougars faced a 3rd-and-10 from midfield. Paris (3-1) called its final timeout and if they were able to force a punt, they’d have enjoyed a big momentum shift with a chance to steal the win in the waning moments.

What was Holy Cross thinking?

“Honestly, I wanted to run the clock,” Bronger said. “But someone suggested we try a certain pass play that we’ve worked on all week at practice.”

The Cougars lined up with a trips-right set (three receivers to the right side of the field) and senior Demetrius Dillard in the backfield to add some protection for junior quarterback Jaren McDonald. “Super Mario” Convenuto, Holy Cross’ outstanding senior running back, lined up in that trips-right set and was tasked to run a bubble screen.

“As soon as I heard the call, I had my doubts,” Convenuto admitted. “But literally, the entire game they’d been keying on me and felt like they had two defenders on me every time I split out wide. So they called for me to run a fake bubble screen and the safety and outside linebacker both ran at me which created space for Jaren to make that throw.”

The diminutive, but tough McDonald stood as tall as he could in the pocket due in no small part to excellent pass protection. That’s where Dillard made his contribution.

“Our offensive line was tough all night,” Dillard said. “I knew that they were blitzing on that play because my line called it out to me. That was my assignment: to move left and not let their weak side linebacker get to our quarterback.”

With solid protection and running a perfectly designed play against that defensive alignment, McDonald drilled a pass into the numbers of wide open junior wide receiver Gavin Foushee. The speedy Foushee caught it in stride and turned it into a 20-yard gain and a first down that allowed the Cougars to run out the clock.

“They (the coaches) kept talking about that play during the game, so I knew they’d eventually call it,” McDonald said. “We needed it. I was pretty confident that it would work. It was an easy read for me as I just had to pick out the linebacker and watch to see if he went with the fake bubble screen. He bit on the fake and Gavin was wide open.”

Finally, Foushee had to do his part to complete this game-clinching play.

“Jaren and I have been playing together since sixth grade at St. Andrew,” Foushee said. “I knew that if I was open that he was going to hit me with that pass and we were going to get that first down and clinch the game. It was a three-step slant and he got me right in the numbers.”

It was special for those seniors to see how much ownership that the juniors have on this team. Mired in a miserable, unproductive first half, the Cougars defense stepped up and allowed only a 30-yard field goal in the first quarter and a 70-yard, 13-play drive that resulted in a touchdown for Paris with 4:35 left.

The Greyhounds would take a 5-0 lead late in the first quarter when an errant punt snap sailed over the Holy Cross punter’s head and rolled out of the end zone for a safety.

At that point, things did not look good for the home side.

“It all came down to us seniors motivating our teammates on defense,” Convenuto said. “We needed to just do our own job and execute what we needed to do.”

Dillard, who gained 41 yards on three carries, complemented Convenuto’s 91 yards on 20 carries and two touchdown performance. Foushee caught two passes for 30 yards and McDonald finished 5 of 9 passing for 43 yards while gaining 26 yards on eight carries.

The Holy Cross defense limited the Greyhounds to just 54 yards rushing on 26 carries. Quarterback Aaron Maggard finished the game 15 of 32 passing for 129 yards and added 33 yards on 10 carries. Caden Van Hoose caught seven passes for 68 yards and Eric Johnson reeled in six of Maggard’s offerings for 52 yars.

“We grind and work so hard in the offseason just with the 36 players we have,” Dillard said. “We bend, but we don’t break on defense and we prepare so much for what we need to do physically and mentally. This team is special because of that effort and dedication and because of what our coaches do for us.”

Holy Cross will need another big effort from their senior leaders and those underclassmen as they travel to Providence (Ind.) to play the Pioneers next Friday at 7:00 p.m. 

 

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