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High School Football: Marist ‘D’ shines in win over Richards

By Steve Millar
Correspondent

Twenty-three seconds into Friday night’s game, Marist and Richards had both scored touchdowns and it looked like a shootout was in store.

That would not have surprised RedHawks senior linebacker Jimmy Rolder.

“We were prepared for a shootout after watching them last week,” Rolder said. “We knew it was going to be a challenge. We always have a chip on our shoulder. We’re always ready to go.”

Instead, the Marist defense rose to the occasion and shut the Bulldogs out the rest of the way. The host RedHawks rolled to a 45-7 win.

Rolder contributed several big plays to the effort, including an interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to cap the scoring.

“Jimmy is a leader of the defense,” Marist coach Ron Dawczak said. “He just works so hard during the week. He’s a smart player, he’s calm and his presence just kind of filters down to the other guys. He’s a great player for the younger guys to look up to.”

Marist (2-0) took the lead on the first play from scrimmage when Coastal Carolina recruit Dontrell Jackson Jr. hit Ak’Tavion Agee on a 69-yard touchdown pass.

“We were able to break down their defense,” Agee said. “Coach liked what he saw and he changed the play. That wasn’t supposed to be the first play. I caught it, I started running and they weren’t going to catch me.”

Agee, a senior who transferred from St. Rita before his junior season and played sparingly in the spring, had five catches for 131 yards, all in the first half.

“I played a little bit, but it was mostly learning the playbook and our offensive scheme,” Agee said of his spring season. “It was smooth sailing, though. It feels good to get out here. I had to wait my turn, but the grind doesn’t stop now. We always get extra work in and that helps.”

Richards (1-1) answered immediately when Donnie Burton returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown, making it 7-7 just 23 seconds into the game.

Those were the only points the Bulldogs scored. Richards was held to 190 yards of offense.

The Bulldogs did get inside the Marist 25 yard line three times but came up empty, turning it over on downs each time.

“Marist is a very good team,” Richards coach Tony Sheehan said. “They’re very disciplined. If we make a couple plays, maybe it’s a 24-21 game at halftime. It just got away from us. I thought we competed.

“There are a few things we have to clean up that we didn’t do very well. There are some good things that we did, though. I don’t think that score really reflects where we’re at.”

James Burford finished 7 of 17 passing for Richards, including a 48-yard pass to Santiago Rios.

On defense, Jordan Tooles had a sack for the Bulldogs.

Jaylen Johnson, who ran 15 times for 76 yards, had first-half scoring runs of 6 and 11 yards to help the RedHawks open up a 24-7 halftime lead.

Jackson threw a 16-yard TD pass to Conor O’Mara and ran for a 19-yard score in the second half. He finished 10 of 16 passing for 185 yards and ran 10 times for 88 yards.

“We like to stay dominant,” Johnson said. “We like to stay cool in the moment. This is what we want. We want big games and we want to be out there to compete.”

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