OLM’s Chauncey Laboo bowls over a Strong Rock defender.
(Staff Photo by Christopher Dunn)
By John Keuler
Our Lady of Mercy has been on the rise ever since the acquisition of head coach Mike Earwood in 2010. On this particular Friday night, Mercy said goodbye to a class that was sophomores when they welcomed Earwood to their campus.
A 48-0 victory over visiting Strong Rock Christian gives this senior class a defining accomplishment. The win propels the Bobcats to their first state playoff appearance since 2004, when a single victory was enough to warrant the fourth and final berth in a region of only five teams.
After a slow start by both teams, Strong Rock was the first to move the chains in the matchup. However, the Locust Grove school would not advance any further. Taking a shot through the air down the field, Strong Rock’s quarterback was intercepted by Rashard Fant who returned the pick to the 35 before being tripped up. From there Our Lady of Mercy commenced its uncharacteristically lengthy drive.
Normally accustomed to drives consisting of long scoring touches, Mercy kept the ball on the ground and the clock running. The OLM running attack picked up yards in chunks and Kalon Anthony capped off the assault with a 15 yard carry that he took wide around the right edge of the line and into the end zone for the first touchdown of the game. Goodly tacked on the extra point to put Our Lady of Mercy up 7-0.
A swarming Bobcat defense pinned the Patriots inside their own 15, causing the punter to kick with his heels on his own goal line. Penalties and a solid run from Chauncey Laboo put Mercy within the 30-yard line. Then a completion from Jameson Vest to Rashard Fant turned into a touchdown as Fant broke away from a defender and made it to the end zone.
The Patriots, starting at their 20 after a touchback, used their triple option offense to run out to midfield until electing to punt, placing Mercy at the 24-yard line. Fant took a snap from senior center Chris Wesley, who has played in every game since his freshman year, as a wildcat quarterback and went up the middle hopping and cutting his way around tacklers. He displayed his evasiveness, making his way to the left sideline before cutting back across the field and eventually outrunning the defense and finding himself easing over the goal line along the opposite sideline. His second score of the game allowed Our Lady of Mercy to take a 21-0 advantage over Strong Rock Christian.
To open the second half, Vest gave a fake and kept it himself on the first play from scrimmage and ran virtually untouched 72 yards. Vest then kicked the extra point to make the score 28-0 with only seconds gone from the clock in the third quarter.
On the next Bobcat series, fans remaining after the senior night ceremonies saw a Kalon Anthony 75 yard dash add six points to Our Lady of Mercy’s offensive accumulation. Although, six points would be all that the Bobcats got when the extra point went wide to the right.
After another stalled Patriot drive, backup quarterback Austin Loper entered the fray. To open the fourth quarter, Jordan Thomas took a checkdown pass from Loper and sprinted 64 yards for the touchdown. The scoreboard now read 41-0 with 11:42 remaining in the final quarter of play.
The final touchdown of the game was set up after an errant pitch went rolling through the Patriot backfield before senior Matthew Frank fell on it. Loper found himself at the 15 yard line where he made something out of nothing and scampered after a busted play for a rushing touchdown, leaving the score at 48-0.
The postgame speech from Coach Earwood was received with much celebration as the team heard the news that they had earned a berth in the state playoffs. The 6-4 Bobcats now move on to face the Eagles Landing Christian Academy, whom they faced earlier in the year and lost 49-0. However, after many years of coaching and 201 wins, Coach Earwood knows that most that anything can happen in the state playoffs, and he hopes to transfer that message to his team.