Railsplitters taste great to Crusaders

BILL ACHUFF / FOR THE TIMES

The Father Judge Crusaders entered their Thanksgiving game with the Abraham Lincoln Railsplitters licking their wounds on a couple of fronts.

The Crusaders were coming off a Catholic League Class AAAA playoff loss to La Salle in a game in which they led early.

They lost that game, in part, because two-way star Yeedee Thaenrat went out with a broken ankle early in the game.

Last Thursday, the Crusaders needed to put the playoff loss behind them and also compensate for the loss of Thaenrat, who was sitting on the sidelines in a wheelchair, his lower left leg and foot in a cast.

Judge was up to the task.

Justin Williams rushed for a touchdown less than three minutes into the game, and Judge never trailed, going on to a 35-14 victory over Lincoln at the Bar-foot Bowl.

“We really had high hopes, then Yeedee went down,” Williams said of the playoff loss. “We put it out of our minds, picked it up and got hyped for the next game.”

Williams, a senior from Upper Darby, was playing in his first Judge/Lincoln rivalry game. He previously played at Imhotep Charter. Williams carried the ball 14 times for 109 yards and played a couple of series at defensive back, helping make up for the loss of Thaenrat on both sides of the ball.

“Our offensive line was strong. They had a good push and got me going,” said Williams, who plans to join the track team, then spend a year playing football at Wyoming Seminary, a prep school in Luzerne County.

Judge (6-5) won for the 26th time in a row and leads the over-all series, 38-3-1.

“It’s a big tradition. We had to keep the streak going and do it for the seniors,” Williams said. “We wanted to go out with a win and send the seniors home with a win.”

Lin-coln (5-7) hasn’t beaten Judge since 1989.

The Railsplitters’ Sportsmanship Award went to Hosea McClam.

Their Most Valuable Player, for the second year in a row, was junior quarterback Allston Au-gustin. He threw for 166 yards and two touchdowns and rushed three times for 52 yards.

“He’s good. He’s a smart football player,” said coach Ed McGettigan. “When nothing’s open, he can run. He’s a dual-threat quarterback. He’s our best player, and he showed it today.”

Judge’s Sportsmanship Award went to Tom Penko. The team MVP was quarterback Rob King.

After the 2-yard touchdown run by Williams gave Judge a 7-0 lead just 2:38 into the game, the Crusaders defense stopped Lincoln, thanks to a sack by junior Savion Perez, who had a big day rushing the passer.

Judge took a 14-0 lead on a 2-yard TD run by Zamir Gindraw.

“We used the same schemes we used all year. Justin Williams had a nice game, and Zamir had some nice runs,” said Judge coach Mike McKay.

Lincoln answered with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Augustin to junior Michael Guyton.

“He’s a great player, and he’ll be back,” McGettigan said of Guyton.

Judge, though, took a 21-7 lead when King found junior Justin Gies for a 29-yard touchdown reception.

“Justin was a first team All-Catholic wide receiver. He’s a nice player,” McKay said.

Lincoln’s next drive stalled, but the Railsplitters kept the ball after Nick Kelly passed to Tariq Blakney on a fake punt. Augustin then found a wide-open Nassir Coleman down the sideline for a 31-yard score.

Coleman, a 6-4 junior who also plays basketball, is a potential Division I college football player.

“He’s a big target. He’s 6-7 on length,” McGettigan said.

Judge would take a 28-14 lead into the locker room when King ran for a 3-yard touchdown just 33 seconds before halftime.

The score remained the same until the fourth quarter, when King ran for a 1-yard touchdown.

Judge’s Robert “Bubba” Taggart intercepted a pass on the Railsplitters’ next drive and ran it 58 yards to the Lincoln 8. Joe Gallagher, who made all five of his extra-point attempts, connected on a 30-yard field goal, but the points were taken off the board when Gallagher was roughed.

The Crusaders turned the ball over, but Penko promptly intercepted a pass, ending any hope of a Lincoln comeback.

McGettigan was pleased with his team’s play, contending that Lincoln could have beaten Martin Luther King, George Washington and Olney with similar efforts. The Railsplitters will lose a dozen seniors, but the core of the team is back, though some key linemen will have to be replaced.

The Lincoln coach said the difference in the game was the Judge rushing attack.

“No. 2 (Williams) and No. 4 (Gindraw) are very capable, good running backs. Their line does such a nice job. Our Achilles heel all year has been stopping the run,” he said.

McKay was happy with the way his players recovered from the La Salle loss.

“They were down in the dumps. We had high hopes, but struggled offensively when Yeedee went out,” he said.

Judge will lose 13 seniors, including Thaenrat, whose ligament damage in his ankle will require a 12-month rehabilitation, putting his college plans on hold.

Thaenrat was a first team All-Catholic at safety. Other first-teamers were Gies, Taggart, Perez and King.

King finished 8-of-11 passing for 129 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed nine times for 70 yards and two TDs.

“He’s a nice dual weapon,” McKay said of King.

McKay is looking forward to next season, when the leading returnees will include Gies, Perez, King and wide receiver/defensive back Steve Arrington. ••

BILL ACHUFF / FOR THE TIMES
Battle of Mayfair: Savion Perez, of Father Judge, tackles Lincoln quarterback Allston Augustin during the Crusaders’ 35-14 victory over the Railsplitters on Thanksgiving. BILL ACHUFF / FOR THE TIMES