Football: Immaculate Lions whip Newark Academy, 31-0 in opener
by Andrew Garda
The Immaculate Conception Lions are aiming high this season, looking for a berth in the state playoffs.
There’s still a long road ahead of them, but they took a big first step with a 31-0 drubbing of the Newark Academy Minutemen last Saturday.
Head coach Ryan Horan liked what he saw from his team.
“We’re really happy with how the boys competed,” he said after the game. “I have a group of kids who really busted their [tails] all summer long for me. They put in the hard work, so I am really glad to see it pay off.”
After a slow first quarter when the Lions offense looked a bit disjointed, running back YJ Thomas broke off a 55-yard touchdown run to get IC on the board.
The senior showed great field vision on the run, avoiding tacklers at the line, then accelerating into the open field, shedding multiple tacklers as he headed towards the end zone.
Thomas, who would gain 154 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries during the game, looks poised for a great season, if he can run as he did against the Minutemen.
“It was great,” he said postgame. “I had to shine for my team and my mom. It was her first time watching me play.”
Thomas’ reliablity was critical in the first quarter, when the rest of the offense seemed to still be getting their feet under them. He kept the chains moving and gave the rest of the unit time to get in sync.
“I have to keep the mentality that I’m the leader of the team, and I have to put them on my back. If nobody else can, I will. I’ll always be there,” Thomas said.
The Lions did miss the extra point, but then made up for it on the ensuing kickoff as Newark Academy’s returner bobbled the ball, allowing Isas Waxter a chance to knock it free. He did, and Amilkar Love immediately picked up the ball on his way to the end zone. Just like that, the Lions were ahead 12-0.
“When the time came, we stepped up and executed when we needed to,” Love said later.
“We were aggressive on special teams,” Ryan said. “That’s been our motto all along. If we win on special teams and in the turnover battle, we’ll be in every game.”
After that, the Lions never really looked back, and the Minutemen seemed to want nothing to do with IC either. They would fumble three more times, including one which led to another fumble return score for the Lions, this time by Kayir McBride. Love would also score a rushing touchdown late in the second quarter.
While the special teams unit for IC was playing its tail off, the defense was busy making Newark Academy quarterback Sam Lawler’s life miserable. In additon to throwing two picks on just five pass attempts, Lawler was sacked six times.
While this was a dominant win, the Lions can’t relish it for long, as they have a tough matchup in the form of Hudson Catholic next week. The end of the game was a bit sloppy, and Horan knows his team needs to get better before kickoff next Saturday, 1pm at Codey Field.
“We’re not sharp enough on offense, so we still have a lot to work on for next week.”