Recent circumstances have forced Matt Hardin to make a quick adjustment from wide receiver to fullback for the St. John’s Catholic Prep football team.
When junior tailback Luke Hegarty went down with an ankle injury in last week’s loss to Maryland School for the Deaf, Hardin knew he most likely would be getting his number called more often on running plays.
Hardin got that call 31 times on Friday. He responded with a breakout running game against Paul Public Charter International School at McCurdy Field, rushing for 165 yards and a touchdown in the Vikings’ 25-12 win over the Pirates.
“Our line did such a great job today,” Hardin said. “I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them. They did a good job of blocking on the inside run. That’s what we do best, go repetition, repetition, repetition. Basically, we did the same basic play a lot tonight.”
Hardin didn’t get his touchdown until there were 4 minutes, 39 seconds left in the first half. His score was set up by a 15-yard run by quarterback Gabe Casteel, which gave SJCP a first-and-goal at the Pirates’ 7-yard line.
Behind his strong offensive line, Hardin scored from 7 yards out, which gave SJCP (1-1) an 18-6 lead. By halftime, Hardin had rushed for 106 yards on 18 carries.
In the past, the Vikings’ offense was geared more around a passing game. Darryl Hayes, in his fourth season as SJCP’s head coach, has been hoping the Vikings would someday add this dimension to their offense.
SJCP’s running game cranked out 265 yards, compared to 9 by the Pirates.
“Good stuff,” Hayes said of Hardin’s night, as well as the successful running game. “We’re trying our best to get a running game going. We thought going into this season we might be able to run a little bit. MSD had our number last week, but we did a lot of things right up front tonight.”
SJCP’s defense forced a quick three-and-out on the game’s opening possession, setting up its first scoring drive at the Pirates’ 44. Two short runs by Hardin put the ball at the Pirates’ 37.
Casteel fired a 37-yard touchdown pass to Micah Glover with 9:07 to go in the first quarter. Zak Rutsch tacked on the extra point, and the Vikings led 7-0.
Paul answered on its first play from scrimmage after the kickoff, when Zy’Quan Daniels beat his coverage on a sideline pass, scoring on an 84-yard TD strike from Aron Artis. A missed 2-point conversion kept SJCP clinging to a 7-6 lead.
The Vikings’ next two scores came on a 33-yard field goal from Rutsch with 1:30 left in the first quarter and a safety, recorded when SJCP’s defense trapped Artis in his own end zone with 7:50 left in the first half.
“That was a thing of beauty, wasn’t it?” Hayes said of the safety, something the Vikings hadn’t been known to do in the past. “We’d like to see a few more of those.”
The Vikings closed out their scoring when Casteel scored from 3 yards out with 1:08 left in the first half. SJCP led 25-6 at halftime.
The Pirates’ other touchdown came on a 28-yard TD pass from Artis to Derrick Lewis five minutes into the fourth quarter.
SJCP dominated the possession game, running 70 plays compared to 38 by the Pirates. In addition to the Vikings’ defensive safety, Josh Hayes blocked a punt on special teams.