McKinley High expected to see plenty of running back Derrius Guice when they met Catholic High at McKinley on Friday.
What they got instead was a methodical Catholic offense that pounded out three long touchdown drives in a 27-6 victory that featured a short passing game and a rushing attack led by Guice’s backup, Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
Guice left the game early in the first quarter with what coach Dale Weiner hoped was only a leg bruise, but Guice didn’t return and was being checked for injuries.
“We prepared for the Derrius Guice show,” McKinley coach Robert Signater said, “but they surprised us with the dinks and dunks in the passing game. You have to get ready to stop it all.
“We made some good plays, but it wasn’t enough against a good team like Catholic. We’d make a good play, then go the wrong way or fumble the ball. You can’t make those mistakes this late in the season.”
After Guice went out, Weiner turned to Edwards-Helaire and junior quarterback Ian Brian to lead the offense. Edwards-Helaire responded with 104 rushing yards and one rushing touchdown and Brian was 18 of 30 passing for 170 yards and two touchdowns.
Edwards-Helaire caught a 9-yard TD pass and Landon Flowers caught the other, a 10-yarder. Flowers finished with seven catches for 68 yards.
“I’m getting more comfortable with my receivers and my o-line,” Brian said. “We knew they have a strong defensive line, so we wanted to make their safeties commit to a side, then get the ball out on the perimeter and make plays.”
Catholic (7-1, 3-0 in District 5-5A) scored on its first and last drives of the first half, then added another long drive on their first possession of the second half.
They opened with a 12-play drive that took the first 4:11 of the game and culminated a one-yard touchdown run by Guice and a PAT kick by Jack Gonsoulin for a 7-0 lead.
After three possessions that ended in two punts and an interception, the Bears got the ball back with 2:04 left in the half and ran the two-minute drill to perfection. They went 65 yards in 1:39, with big plays coming on a 21-yard run by James Berrigan and a 15-yard pass from Brian to Edwards-Helaire.
Flowers scored the Bears’ second touchdown on a quick slant to the end zone to grab a well-thrown ball from Brian.
Edwards-Helaire had both of the Bears’ second half touchdowns.
“We didn’t play our best football,” Weiner said, “but I’m proud of the way our guys stepped up when other guys went down. Derrius took a helmet to the leg, and (linebacker) Ben Miles may have a broken leg. He’s been a stalwart for us.”
McKinley (4-4, 1-2) spent the first half making big plays, then failing to turn them into points. The Panthers had 121 rushing yards in the half, but 106 of them came on two plays. Quarterback Jawun Ruffin broke free on a 63-run on a fourth-and-inches play from his own 24, but that drive ended when Catholic blocked Aiden Lopez’s 32-yard field goal attempt.
Sylvester Neal picked off Brian’s pass in the end zone, and running back Larry Moore ripped off a 43-yard run, but again McKinley couldn’t score.
Ruffin got the Panthers only score of the night on a 22-yard scramble in the third quarter. Moore was their leading rusher with 12 carries for 126 yards.