St. John's vs. MSD football

Maryland School fo the Deaf’s Nathan Sheppeck scores over St. John’s Catholic Prep’s Nicholas Sofia on Friday at McCurdy Field.

Two football programs eagerly awaiting the chance to play on their respective turf fought for home-field advantage Friday night in the outfield of McCurdy Field.

St. John’s Catholic Prep and Maryland School for the Deaf — teams that are encountering delays with their new stadium and track, respectively — clashed in a spirited, competitive contest.

MSD’s Zion Ortiz took the opening kickoff of the second half 80 yards for a touchdown, seizing momentum for the Orioles, who went on to a 38-28 win over the Vikings.

“It’s a home-field advantage, even though we were the away team [tonight], but it feels like home-field advantage,” MSD coach Neal DiMarco said. “Hats off to [St. John’s], they’ve improved a lot in the last few years, and they gave us a tough time on the field.”

The Vikings (0-2) have had to look anywhere to find a football field to practice on while their stadium is built. They have played on a field just four times — two practices and two games — since August.

“Our athletic department has done a heroic job finding us places to practice. It’s difficult because parks are taken, and there’s rules, and we can’t eat up the grass, but next week we’ll be on level field,” Vikings coach Jerry Rogers said. “We’ll be practicing at Grove City park, and we’ll be here or Utica Park one day, but the community’s coming together trying to get us places for us to do our job.”

Ortiz, a 5-foot-9, 170-pound junior, shook off an injury he suffered with under four minutes left in the first half and finished with 151 yards rushing on 15 carries.

“Obviously, he’s the best player on the team, but he’s a team player first,” DiMarco said. “Zion grew up playing football his whole life. He’s a great athlete, and runs track, too.”

After the kickoff return by Ortiz, who was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct during the return, MSD built its lead to 38-12 with 1:12 left in the third quarter.

MSD quarterback Jaden Joseph had touchdown runs of 18 and 2 yards, with two-point conversions on the ground from Ortiz and Ethan Sheppeck.

The Vikings answered back in the form of a 74-yard touchdown run up the middle of the field from Drew Hutchins, while Micah Glover’s two-point conversion run cut the lead to 38-20 with 55 seconds in the third quarter.

A turnover on downs put the ball back in the hands of the Vikings offense, and St. John’s used the ground game to set up a 15-yard touchdown run by Glover, who also added the two-point conversion with 7:44 to play.

MSD ran out the clock with Joseph converting a fourth-and-3 on a sneak with 4:13 to play.

“We won the game, but obviously there’s room for improvement. We made some dumb mistakes,” DiMarco said, referring to four personal fouls.

Ortiz flashed his speed in the open field with a 13-yard run on his first carry, using a cutback to shake a pair of defenders. Then he had a 14-yard catch that set up a touchdown run from a yard out by Ethan Sheppeck.

MSD’s second drive featured more of Ortiz, who frustrated the Vikings linebackers and secondary with runs of 31 and 36 yards to set up a 13-yard touchdown catch by Ethan Sheppeck.

Nathan Sheppeck’s two-point conversion put MSD ahead 14-6 with 10:38 before halftime.

The Vikings responded with a seven-play drive, culminating on a 3-yard touchdown run by Drew Hutchins with 3:47 before halftime, but Tiernan O’Rourke’s two-point conversion play sailed over his receiver’s head.

Ortiz and the Vikings’ Grayson DiPietro had interceptions within the final 30 seconds of the first half as MSD held onto a 14-12 lead at the break.

Hutchins had 131 yards on 12 carries, while Glover finished with 82 yards on 14 carries.

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