The Beverly Review
With his lunge into the end zone late in the third quarter, Br. Rice quarterback John Bean brought the Crusaders to within 2 points of rival Marist.
Late in the fourth, Bean powered his way through the defense, finding the end zone on a 1-yard keeper that put Br. Rice up for good in an exciting rivalry showdown.
However, Bean wasn’t taking the credit for host Br. Rice’s 20-16 victory on Aug. 24 over Marist. He put that honor squarely on the shoulders of the defense.
“The defense picked us up. We owe this game to our defense,” Bean said. “We needed the ball back, and the defense got us the ball back. I give them all the credit. There was no way we were letting them down. They stuck with it.”
For a Crusaders team coming off a tough 2-7 season last fall, the victory in the Battle of Pulaski was a heck of a start to a turnaround this season.
“This is a big step after last year,” said Br. Rice senior defensive lineman Jalen Rheams. “We were 2-7, and we heard all that stuff. Today starts a new day for us. We’re new Crusaders right here.”
With Marist on the verge of punching in a red-zone touchdown late in the fourth, it was Rheams, a three-year starter, delivering a huge play. Marist senior quarterback Mike Markett (161 passing yards, 92 rushing yards, 22-yard TD run) rolled to his right off the snap but fumbled the ball.
Rheams (6 tackles) was there to pounce and recover for the Crusaders.
“I saw the ball lying there and thought about scooping it up,” Rheams said. “I decided to just fall on it. I was trying to help my team out and make the best play possible.”
With the clock winding down and the Crusaders needing a score, Bean did the rest with great field position. Br. Rice almost stalled inside the 5-yard line, but Bean slammed his way through a wall of defenders for the 1-yard score.
The winning touchdown provided quick redemption for Bean, who had thrown a red-zone interception just three minutes earlier. Marist senior linebacker Kendric Nowling (Eastern Michigan) swooped in for the pick on a ball intended for Harvard-bound tight end David O’Keeffe.
“I messed it up. Kendric made a great play, but I knew my defense would have my back,” Bean said. “You dream about this as a kid. For it to actually happen, this is really something else. I wasn’t going to put my head down. I had to carry on forward.”
Bean finished with 170 passing yards, 2 interceptions and 118 rushing yards.
Jessi Plunkett (40 rushing yards) also scored a touchdown for Br. Rice, finding the end zone on an 8-yard run early in the second quarter.
Following Bean’s game-winner, Justin Jefferson (8 tackles), Giacomo Iraci (interception), Jayshon Means (7 tackles) and Zach Wareyko (6 tackles) all delivered key defensive stops to halt Marist’s drive in the closing minutes.
Br. Rice Coach Brian Badke said he sees a much-improved defense this season.
“Defensively, this is the best group we’ve had,” Badke said. “We’ve had a lot of skill on offense, but this year our defense is going to be our cornerstone, our backbone. This is a great group. They’ll will you to a win. They did it today.”
Jack McMahon (11 tackles) and Joe Fitzgerald (7 tackles) contributed defensively.
Marist almost scored the go-ahead on a hook-and-ladder play run to perfection from Markett to Jadon Thompson to Billy Skalitzky (Most Holy Redeemer). However, Skalitzky was tripped up near the Br. Rice 20-yard line by a shoestring tackle from Iraci on a 60-yard play in the final minute.
“Just missed it tonight. A couple inches there on that play,” Marist Coach Ron Dawczak said. “It’s a rivalry game where we know it’s going to be close and come down to a play or two. Tonight, Br. Rice made those plays. We’ll get right back at it and learn from tonight.”