Kinkaid looks to clinch SPC South with win over St. John’s Friday

Man, these guys are loaded.

Undefeated Kinkaid, with a star-studded lineup, will try to close out a perfect regular season and an unbeaten Southwest Preparatory Conference South Zone championship 7:30 p.m. Friday night at Rice Stadium when the high-flying Falcons take on St. John’s School in both squads’ annual season finale against each other.

The Falcons, who have played in the last four SPC championship games and have won two of them, are now 8-0 on the season and 5-0 in the South Zone after they defeated Episcopal, 20-10, in an on-and-off rainstorm last Friday night at water-logged Segal Field at Barnhart Stadium.

The Falcons along with Episcopal will be in the playoffs as SPC South Zone representatives. St. John’s and Country Day are tied for third place with 3-2 marks and the Mavericks can secure a playoff spot in either the Big School or Small School classification with a win while they can also get some help if Episcopal can knock off Houston Christian, which would give them four losses.

So there is still a lot on the line this week for both Kinkaid, which is looking to finish a perfect 9-0, and St. John’s, which is looking for its second consecutive victory over the Falcons and a second consecutive playoff appearance.

If the Falcons and that lethal offense, led by junior quarterback J.T. Granato, get things cranked up the way they have just about every game this season, then the Mavericks’ best chance may come by using their veer ball-control offense, led by quarterback Wes Wallace, to keep Granato and company off the field. But if the Mavs’ can’t get their offense rolling, then their defense will be asked to stop a team that no one has really stopped to this point in the season.

With a host of outstanding college prospects on offense like junior quarterback J.T. Granato, junior wide receiver Sam Mays, senior safety Thomas Dillon, senior running back Jacob Matthews and a few others, the Falcons have a lot of different weapons on both sides of the ball.

But due to a pretty solid Episcopal defense and a heavy rain that at times literally paralyzed both teams offensively, the Falcons couldn’t shake the Knights, who are now 6-1 overall and 4-1 in the SPC South.

The Falcons also never let the Episcopal offense, which came into the game averaging 50 points a game, get on any kind of schedule. In fact, the Knights had a chance to score very early, but fumbled and from there, the Falcons were pretty much in control.

With a short kick to start the game, Episcopal began the game with the ball at its own 42. With a Tyreik Gray 19-yard run and Will Taussig 15-yard pass to Colby Jones, the Knights moved to the Kinkaid 22 before an intentional grounding penalty forced them into a 4th-and-30 back in their own territory.

They pinned Kinkaid back its to its own goal line with an outstanding punt as the rain, for the first time, began to fall. The Falcons got the ball out to its own 16, but a penalty pushed them back and they had to punt from their own end zone.

After a decent Kinkaid kick, the Knights had good field position at the Kinkaid 43. A nine-yard pass to Preston Heard followed by a 10-yard run by Gray and a leaping 21-yard catch by Collin Leisz put them at the Kinkaid 3. But on first down with the rain intensifying, the Knights had a bad snap and Kinkaid recovered to halt what would be the Knights’ only real threat for a while.

After the teams traded punts, the home team scored its first touchdown to complete an 11-play, 85-yard drive. With the big play a 35-yard catch-and-run by Michael Goldak, the Falcons got on the board with Jacob Matthews sweeping around the left side for a three-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second period. John Beeler added the extra point and Kinkaid led 7-0 with 11:55 remaining in the first half.

After Episcopal, aided by a late hit against Taussig, moved the ball to the Kinkaid 34, the Knights threw an incomplete pass on fourth-and-10 and had to turn the ball over on downs right there. On the first play from there, Granato found the big speedster Sam Mays, who caught three passes for 90 yards, behind the secondary and Mays scored on a 66-yard touchdown play to make it 14-0 midway through the second period.

Later in the period, Episcopal got on the scoreboard with a 23-yard Gabe Vogatizis field goal, but the Falcons responded with one final drive that resulted in a Beeler 34-yard field goal on the final play of the second period to put Kinkaid up 17-3 at halftime.

While both teams battled the elements and good defenses in the third period, the Knights began their final scoring drive late in the third period. Even though the rain was going in all different directions, Taussig completed passes to Leisz, Heard and then Gray to move the Knights inside the Kinkaid 10-yard-line.

After moving to the Kinkaid one, a penalty moved the Knights back to the 13 as the clock showed less than 10 minutes to play in the game. But on second and goal, Taussig completed a short pass to Dillon Davis, who carried the ball eight yards into the end zone to close the gap to 17-10 with 9:15 left

However it was then the rain started to fall harder than it had all night long and just making sure the ball was snapped and handed off cleanly became a real challenge. And it was a bad snap by Episcopal that allowed Kinkaid to score its final points of the game.

The Knights tried a punt from their own 25 with just under five minutes remaining, but had a bad snap. When Vogatizis finally ran the ball down in front of his own goal line, he tried to punt it, but the ball went nowhere while he was knocked down and Kinkaid took over at the Episcopal 6.

However, the Knights made one final stand as it appeared Niagara Falls was coming down on them and it the midst of that torrent, Beeler made a 22-yard field goal to complete the scoring and give Kinkaid some breathing room.

Despite the rough conditions, neither team shied away from putting it in the air with Granato, who was flicking long tight spirals as though it were a bright sunny afternoon, going up top 41 times while Taussig, who also threw the ball well under tough conditions, had 35 attempts.

St. John’s comes into Friday’s game against Kinkaid ppearing to be back on track after the Mavericks snapped a two-game losing streak last Friday night with a 35-7 victory over Trinity Valley in Fort Worth. In back-to-back losses to Fort Worth Country Day and Episcopal, the Mavericks had been held in check but their running back got its groove back against Trinity Valley, collecting 517 yards on the ground against the Trojans.

Running back Preston Neal had a season-high 219 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries while quarterback Wes Wallace was back to his usual self, picking up 159 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries. Running back Risher Randall scored the team’s other touchdown to account for all their points.

So all three Examiner-area SPC teams have a lot to play for on the final night of the season and after Friday night, the final two South Zone playoff representatives after St. John’s and Episcopal should be known.

InstantNewsWestu Staff

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