The Pope John Paul II Knights overwhelmed the visiting Whites Creek Cobras on Friday to open the 2018 season with a 57-0 victory.
“It was a good start,” said JPII coach Justin Geisinger, who is trying to lead the Knights to their third straight regular season with a .500 or better record.
Coming into the game, Geisinger and the coaching staff wanted to see the Knights compete for four quarters. That will be important as the season progresses and the team faces adversity, according to Geisinger.
“We’ve got guys rising to that challenge more than any other team I’ve had,” he said. “It’s about looking at the guy next to you and knowing you’ve got his back.”
That’s part of the culture Geisinger and his staff have been trying to build at JPII during his four years at the helm of the football program. The team has totally adopted the culture and the team’s four core principles: love your brother, pride, attention to detail, and no regrets, said senior lineman Charles Albert.
“This is the tightest team I’ve ever been a part of,” Albert added. “When they make mistakes, players take responsibility instead of blaming someone else, and focus on executing the next play.”
“We’ve become more of a family,” added senior quarterback Ben Nixon. “We’ve come together.”
The Knights dominated the game on the first play when Brooks Heagarty recovered a Cobra fumble on the Whites Creek 26-yard line. On the next play, Brendan Keaton took a pass in the flat from Nixon and weaved his way through the Cobras defense for a touchdown.
After holding Whites Creek to a three-and-out on the next series, the Knights took over on their own 43-yard line. Ten plays later, sophomore Antwan Roberts completed the drive with a 3-yard touchdown to help push JPII’s lead to 14-0.
On the next series, Heagarty, a junior linebacker, picked off a Whites Creek pass and sprinted 32 yards for another score and a 21-0 lead.
After an interception by Nick Pracht set up JPII at the Whites Creek 39, then Roberts took a Nixon pass for 18 yards and rushed for 17 more. Nixon ended the three-play drive with a 4-yard touchdown run to give JPII a 28-0 lead with 4:35 left in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Roberts added two more touchdown runs of 42 and 10 yards. A 5-yard touchdown pass from Nixon to Timothy Lark and a safety gave JPII a 50-0 lead at halftime.
With a running clock in the second half, JPII added one more score when Pius Onaghinor took a pass from Ethan McLaughlin, broke a tackle, and raced 18 yards for a touchdown.
“We just executed what the coaches called, we just made our plays,” said Nixon, who finished the game completing 8 of 12 passing for 115 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for 33 yards and another touchdown on six carries. “If we keep playing like this, good things are going to happen throughout the season.”
Roberts led JPII with 90 yards rushing and three touchdowns on eight carries.
As a team, JPII rushed for 173 yards and threw for 149 more for 322 yards of total offense.
The Knights will travel to Lipscomb Academy next Friday night.
“This game is big for our momentum going into next week,” Nixon said.
“We’ve got to come out and practice even harder than we did this week,” added Albert.
“Lipscomb is well coached and disciplined,” Geisinger said. “Some of the errors we made tonight we’re going to have to clean them up. This year, the coaching staff has preached to the team about living and competing like Christ. We’re looking to play at the highest level no matter who we’re playing. Our kids are starting to buy into that.”