It took well into the fourth quarter, but the Georgetown Bulldogs finally fought off a game St. James squad 35-20 Friday night in the Region VIII-AAA opener for both teams.
Quarterback Caleb Hughes completed 17 of 25 passes for 275 yards and a touchdown in directing Georgetown’s balanced attack as the Bulldogs improved to 4-2 overall.
The Bulldogs were locked in a 14-14 tied at halftime but scored two unanswered touchdowns in the fourth quarter to overcame an emotional and determined Sharks squad whose upset bid was derailed by two late turnovers.
“We made a lot of mistakes in the first half and we got in there and got after their butts a little bit,” said Georgetown coach Bradley Adams. “I’m just glad we finally came out and played four quarters of football this week. We were just able to catch the breaks in the second half and that was really the only reason we were able to pull away a little bit.”
St. James head coach Mark Fischer, who was recently diagnosed with cancer, received chemotherapy in Durham, N.C. Thursday.
A day later, Fischer was back on the sideline supporting his team, and doing plenty of coaching to boot, as assistant head coach and offensive line coach Ricky Cox served as interim head coach.
“We all gave a great effort,” said St. James quarterback Josh Roper. “We tried as hard as we could to win it for coach. We just came up short in the long run. We gave all we could until the last whistle.”
With the game tied at 14-14, Georgetown took the second half kickoff and drove 65 yards in 6 plays, capped by Juwan Gibbs’ 3-yard plunge up the middle, giving the Bulldogs a 21-14 lead with 10:12 left in the third quarter.
The Sharks struck quickly late in the quarter when Austin Adams broke loose up the middle for a 54-yard touchdown run with 1:38 left in the quarter. The Bulldogs preserved a 21-20 lead when DaeQuan Gibson blocked Charles Ouverson’s extra point.
After St. James held Georgetown on 4th down, Bulldog defender Jordan Ward picked off Sharks quarterback Josh Roper and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown, upping the lead to 28-20.
After a St. James three-and-out, Georgetown finally got some breathing room when MIchael Billings capped a 64-yard march with an 8-yard touchdown run for a 35-20 lead with 6:02 left to play.
“I told [the players] they had a harder week than I did,” said Fischer. “They had a lot to deal with, with all the distractions, and I was in my own little world in my own little hospital. I think the kids did a better job this week than I could have ever expected. I would have liked to have gotten a win but I thought we had a good show.”
The Bulldogs quickly took the lead early in the first quarter when Tarik Tucker intercepted Roper on the Sharks first play from scrimmage. Four plays later, Julian Lunsford bulled his way into the end zone from 11 yards out to cap a 38-yard drive, giving the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead with 11:14 still left in the first quarter.
.The Sharks bounced back with a 9-play, 68-yard drive as Roper found 6-5 receiver Tre McCullen one-on-one on the sideline for a 31-yard touchdown to the the game at 7-7 with 11:18 left in the first half.
After the St. James defense stopped Georgetown on the four straight possessions, McCullen provided the big play once again to put the Sharks ahead. This time McCullen caught a Roper pass up the middle, shook off a tackle and outran the defense down the sideline for a 68-yard touchdown, giving St. James a 14-7 edge with 3:23 left in the first half.
Georgetown responded with a 10-play, 65-yard march, capped by Caleb Hughes’ 27-yard touchdown strike to Tucker to send the game into halftime deadlocked at 14-14.
G-Julian Lunsford 11 run (Josh Huneault kick)
SJ-Tre McCullum 31 pass from Josh Roper (Charles Overson kick)
SJ-McCullum 68 pass from Roper (Overson kick)
G-Tarik Tucker 27 pass from Caleb Hughes (Huneault kick)
G-Juwan Gibbs 2 run (Huneault kick)
G-Michael Billings 8 run (Huneault kick)
RUSHING—St. James: Adams 5-67, Crum 9-28, Goodman 3-17, Roper 11-11, Hurston 6-7. Georgetown: Billings 22-73, Lunsford 4-42, Hughes 11-39, Gibson 4-9, Gibbs 1-2.
PASSING—St. James: Roper 15-23-155. Georgetown: Hughes 17-26-270.
RECEIVING—St. James: McCullum 6-121, Crum 3-6, Goodman 3-4, Hurston 1-9, Adams 1-8, Dieble 1-7. Georgetown: Walker 10-140, Gamble 3-48, Tucker 2-52, Ballard 1-25, Billings 1-5.